Friday, Jun 13, 2014
Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: New Jobs Across Arkansas
Because of a recent wave of economic development announcements, Arkansas has a lot to celebrate. In the past few weeks alone, six businesses have revealed plans that collectively add more than 1,600 jobs and $140 million in investments throughout the State.
In Fort Smith, transportation company ArcBest Corp. and Georgia-Pacific’s Dixie plant will bring more than 1,000 new jobs to Sebastian County. These expansions are particularly encouraging in the wake of the closing of the city’s Whirlpool plant in 2012. It was only a matter of time before other businesses capitalized on the skilled workforce that remained there.
The Dixie plant, one of the first manufacturing operations to move to the Fort Smith after World War II, will undergo a $40 million equipment and facility upgrade for a new plate line. The investment is part of more than $100 million planned at other Georgia-Pacific facilities in Arkansas this year. This makes a powerful statement about our state’s role in American manufacturing. Meanwhile, ArcBest will build new corporate facilities in Fort Smith, the city it has called home for 90 years. More than 75 new high-paying jobs will accompany the expansion. This news also sends a message to the corporate world that there is a home in Arkansas for companies with ever-changing, data-driven components to their operations.
TeleTech Holdings has already heard that message. A provider of analytics-driven solutions for its clients, TeleTech is hiring 250 people in Central Arkansas. The company will serve the health-care industry from a new facility in Sherwood. TeleTech provides services that are vital in our Information Age, and Central Arkansas has the talented and dedicated people required to help the company thrive and prosper here.
The needs of the Information Age are also bringing 50 new jobs to Osceola. There, BlueOak Resources will open the nation’s first mining refinery with the ability to retrieve high-value metals from e-waste, usually discarded computers and other outdated technology. While the jobs will pay well, the refinery will also benefit the environment. Most of this type of e-waste is currently dumped in landfills. We’re pleased that the Natural State will contribute to reducing that volume of disposal.
Finally, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff will acquire new jobs in line with each area’s traditional industries. Southwind Milling will build a rice mill in the Port of Pine Bluff. Currently, local farmers must sell their crops to other markets. The new mill will give them another option, saving them transportation costs while bringing tax revenue and new jobs to the city. And in Jonesboro, TrinityRail Maintenance Services will manufacture rail cars in the old Nordex USA facility. Up to 350 jobs will be created, and important infrastructure will continue to be used.
These announcements show again that when Arkansas cities have the right workforce and facilities in place, new companies will continue to bring Arkansans good jobs that pay well. We remain wary of possible closures in other parts of the State as companies make decisions about their future plans. However, as long as we continue to make education an integral part of our economic success, more of these heartening announcements will come our way. We can replace jobs that have left Arkansas, often with higher-paying employers, while building the economic base of our communities to the benefit of us all.