Friday, Oct 19, 2012
Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Hiring More Arkansans
As of this June, Arkansans held 27,000 more jobs than we did three years earlier, at the peak of the national recession. We’ve made a determined effort since I took office to make economic development one of our highest priorities. Our success has been shown in our ability to attract, retain and expand businesses even while many companies closed their operations or took their jobs out of the country. Each day, we continue to build on that track record. In fact, in just the past two weeks, we’ve celebrated two companies who decided to create hundreds of new Arkansas jobs.
Earlier this month, I travelled to Prescott for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Firestone Building Products’ plant. The company opened that facility in 1964, and it provides work for more than 400 employees from 12 counties. A couple of years ago, Firestone had to decide either to close or expand that plant, so state and local leaders went to work to convince them to stay. Because of those cooperative efforts, Firestone kept more than 400 jobs, and is adding at least 100 more.
Then, this past week, a Florida-based recycling company announced it is opening a plant in Rogers that will put 350 Arkansans to work. Nextlife Asset Recovery Service will hire Arkansans to convert used plastic products into a resin that can be used to manufacture new plastics. This recycling process cuts the carbon footprint of those plastic products by 70%, a service sought after by companies wanting to adopt green practices. The company becomes the latest in Arkansas’s growing green sector, furthering our potential to become a national leader in this important segment of the economy.
These two companies highlight the continuing tradition of manufacturing in Arkansas. Manufacturing has long been central to our economy, and our people have regularly shown their skills and qualifications for these jobs. Our strategy has been to build on that strength by providing more job training for Arkansans to match the pace of a changing manufacturing sector. These recent job announcements are evidence that our efforts are working. Companies throughout the country have confidence in our people’s abilities, and our workforce helps bring or keep their business here.
Our economic-development strategy places equal importance on retaining current employers while attracting new ones. The combination of new jobs with a long-established company like Firestone, as well as with a new employer, Nextlife, demonstrate the success of that strategy. Credit is due to our leaders at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, local economic-development professionals, and the Arkansas Legislature. Their cooperative spirit laid a foundation for this success.
It is our citizens, however, in places like Prescott, Rogers and beyond, who really fuel Arkansas’s economic engine. Employers are drawn not only to the work ethic of Arkansans as employees, but also to their friendliness as neighbors. We can all take great pride in the strides we’ve made to work through hard times, bring new jobs to Arkansas, and build our strength for the future.