BY STATE SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE –
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is a relatively small state agency whose work has a big impact.
The AEDC employs 90 people who recruit new industries to Arkansas and who work with existing industries to encourage them to expand their operations. The entire community gets excited about announcements of new industries that create new jobs. It’s equally important when an existing industry expands and adds new jobs, but those announcements don’t always generate as many headlines.
In the past few weeks there has been a steady stream of good economic news throughout Arkansas. In Mountain Home 50 new jobs will be created by Hamilton Scientific-Epoxyn Products, which manufactures laboratory equipment and supplies. In Pine Bluff, Summit Foods will acquire a poultry processing plant that closed in the summer and will restore 100 jobs, beginning in mid-January.
In Conway, Hewlett-Packard announced its plans to add about 200 jobs, most of them demanding technical, engineering and technical skills. The company had laid off about 500 people earlier in 2013, and the creation of 200 well paid jobs will bring the company’s total work force in Conway to more than 600.
In Malvern, a 17-year-old company named Prime-Line, will add 50 new jobs after a $6.7 million investment in a new facility. The firm manufacturers fiberboard molding and millwork of varying densities. The expansion will bring the total work force at the Arkansas-based company to about 100.
Vinh Long, a company based in Vietnam, will invest $5 million in a Morrilton plant and create about 75 jobs making storage furniture and kitchen cabinets. The head of the company said during the announcement that Arkansas was a good location to build a wood products company because of the availability of material.
American Tubing will invest $3.2 million in a Springdale plant that makes copper tubing for air conditioners and refrigerators, and will add 50 employees.
In Batesville, Ozark Mountain Poultry will expand its operations to add 250 jobs and possibly more when production increases. The company sells chickens that are free of antibiotics.
In October, Hino Motors announced that it would spend $55 million to expand its manufacturing facility in Marion and add 200 jobs. Hino has been in Arkansas since 2004. It manufactures axles and components for suspensions in Toyota vehicles.
Thermold Magazines, a maker of parts for firearms, announced that it was moving its U.S. headquarters from North Carolina to Fort Smith. The move entails a $7 million investment and the creation of 65 jobs in Fort Smith.
Earlier in the year Vikon Farms announced that it would locate a poultry plant in Arkadelphia and eventually hire 170 people to work in a facility that had been shut. In Lonoke, Remington Arms broke ground on an expansion of its ammunition plant, which has been in Arkansas since 1969.
The AEDC administers numerous grant programs to promote small business, filming movies and TV shows in Arkansas, minority-owned firms, the training of workers for high-tech fields and job creation in poor areas. Its annual operating budget is about $10.4 million.