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Arkansas Targets Growth Manufacturing, Technology, and Energy

Apr/May 08
"We finished out the calendar year 2007 with 6,400 announced jobs and new investments of over $1 billion, and those are just the projects that the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) is involved with," says Joe Holmes, director of marketing and communications for the AEDC.

In 2007, a targeted industries study pinpointed 12 focus areas in three categories-growth manufacturing; technology; and clean, green, and sustainable. Among the 12 areas, aerospace and aviation has taken off as the state's single largest export. Dassault Falcon Jet has expansions underway in both completion and service center operations in Little Rock. Other aviation companies include Little Rock's Hawker Beechcraft and defense contractor Lockheed Martin in East Camden.

Automotive suppliers are attracted to Arkansas by the 10 OEMs located in Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and Indiana, all within 400 to 500 miles. Hino Motors Manufacturing USA is investing $70 million in its 400,000-square-foot Marion plant that makes axles and suspension components for Toyota Tundra pickup trucks.

Another category growing with the flow is bottled spring water which has "a strong history" in Arkansas, according to Holmes. Mountain Valley Water has been bottled from the same spring for more than 130 years. The state is currently home to six additional water bottling companies.

Research is ongoing in the alternative energy sector. Holmes notes that Arkansas SoyEnergy Group LLC, a soybean crushing and biodiesel production facility located in DeWitt, is totally self-contained, using soybean oil as its only agricultural feedstock to produce biodiesel.

Foreign direct investment is also resulting in new energy facilities. After investing $150 million, Denmark-based LM Glasfiber, a manufacturer of windmill turbine blades started production in Little Rock, with plans to hire 1,100 employees at full production. India-based Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd. is also building a manufacturing facility in Little Rock, where 300 workers will produce tubular steel pipes for the oil and gas industry.

In other traditional energy news, natural shale formations in the Fayetteville area hold natural gas "that is creating economic activity as companies explore methods of gas extraction," says Holmes. England OilField Services Inc. is building a 33,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in England, Arkansas, where 175 people are involved in the manufacture of field equipment for services to the natural gas and oil industries.