LITTLE ROCK – Now that I’ve been in office for more than four years, you may have noticed that one of my favorite topics is “economic development.” As we close out April of this year, I’d like to note that this has been a banner month for job creation in Arkansas.
This week alone, we’ve announced two grand openings and an expansion that are projected to produce 781 jobs and investments of $141 million. When you consider the two expansions we announced in the first half of April, the total comes to over 900 new jobs and over $200 million in investment.
April’s first big announcement was that Coca-Cola Consolidated will expand its operations in West Memphis by 60 employees and invest $30 million. This is a significant win for Arkansas because the company chose to expand at its Arkansas facility rather than across the Mississippi River in Memphis. When an iconic American company like Coca-Cola continues to invest in Arkansas, we know we're doing things right.
April’s second big story was Sig Sauer’s announcement that the company would expand its ammunition manufacturing plant in Jacksonville. This should create 75 new jobs and the firm’s investment in Arkansas by $30 million.
Sig Sauer was my administration’s first economic development victory. On my first day in office in 2015, I made a cold call to Sig Sauer’s president. Eighteen months later, Sig Sauer was breaking ground in Jacksonville.
On Tuesday, the president of the Czech firearms company CZ-USA joined me at the capitol to announce his company will build a plant at the Port of Little Rock, its first U.S. plant. Over the next several years, CZ-USA expects to create 565 new jobs and invest $90 million. In addition, Arkansas will be its North American Headquarters.
Our second big announcement was that Aerojet Rocketdyne is enlarging its operations in East Camden. That expansion is expected to create 140 new jobs and attract more than $50 million in investment.
On Thursday, I traveled to Helena-West Helena to help cut the ribbon at Dragon Woodland Sawmill. The reopening of the sawmill, which the company bought in 2018, is expected to create 75 new jobs and attract $10 million in investment. This is great news for Phillips County.
While April was an exceptionally productive month, it accurately represents the kind of economic development we’ve seen in Arkansas over the past four years.
With the leadership of Mike Preston and his team at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, we have signed more than 400 economic development deals, which produced 17,000 jobs, and more than $8 billion in capital investment.
Our total job growth since January 2015 is over 80,000.
This doesn’t happen by accident. I have traveled nearly 90,000 miles and visited eight countries. We have forged solid trust-based relationships with business leaders all over the world.
In June, I will make my third trip to the Paris Air Show, which is the place to meet global leaders of the aerospace and defense industry.
But it’s more than research and reaching out. A sales pitch is worthless unless I have something of value to sell. In Arkansas, we have our natural beauty, our natural resources, and our solid record of economic growth.
But our most important selling point is the people of Arkansas. Without exception, the CEOs who have chosen to do business in Arkansas talk about the strength of our workforce. Arkansans work hard, and over the past four years, many have taken advantage of educational opportunities to learn new skills that are crucial in our rapidly developing high-tech economy.
With our emphasis on computer science and technical careers, we are adding muscle to our workforce. Our workforce, of course, is all of Arkansas. The ultimate goal of economic development is to make Arkansas a better place to live, and we are doing just that.
Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of the state of Arkansas. Visit the Governor’s website at governor.arkansas.gov .