Sun Paper Selects Arkadelphia, Arkansas For Bio-Products Mill

Sun Paper, one of the top 500 Chinese enterprises and one of the world’s top pulp and paper makers, has announced the selection of a site in Arkadelphia, AR for a large new bio-products mill.

Arkansas State Capitol

Arkansas State Capitol (photo – Daniel Schwen/wikimedia)

The announcement was made by Governor Asa Hutchinson and Hongxin Li, chairman and founder of Sun Paper, in the Governor’s Conference Room at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock, AR.

The company will invest more than $1 billion in the project and expects to create 250 new jobs for Arkadelphia and Clark County at an average annual salary of $52,000.

This will be their first facility in North America. Headquartered in Yanzhou in China’s Shandong Province, Sun Paper is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and is one of the biggest private enterprises in China. With total assets of 26 billion yuan and a worldwide workforce of more than 10,000 employees, the annual pulp and paper production capacity of Sun Paper is 4.6 million tons. It’s also among the most globally advanced transnational papermaking group and an enterprise integrating pulp and papermaking.

Back in November, Gov. Hutchinson and Chairman Hongxin Li had signed a letter of intent of investment cooperation for a $1.3 billion pulp mill project. The letter of intent was signed during an Arkansas trade mission to Asia led by Gov. Hutchinson, in the presence of Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and U.S. Consulate General Charles Bennett.

At that time, Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement that “This is another great example of how important these trade missions are in marketing Arkansas to the rest of the world.”

The Governor’s Office and AEDC have been working closely with the company as they finalized details for the location of this project. The Arkadelphia site halfway between Little Rock and Texarkana that the company has chosen is located in the heart of Arkansas’ timber industry, with easy access to Interstate 30. Forests cover about 18.8 million acres, about half of the state, mostly in South Arkansas.

Gov. Hutchinson noted in a release announcing the company’s selection of Arkadelphia that “This is among the largest private investments in the state’s history and the impact will be felt for generations. Thanks to Sun Paper for choosing Arkansas as the location for its first North American facility.”

Sun Paper’s investment in Arkansas is comparable to Big River Steel’s investment in Mississippi County, AR. At the time that project was announced, it was the largest investment ever in Arkansas.

Arkansas Secures Bekaert and FMH Conveyors Job Creation Projects

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission has announced expansions in the state by global steel wire products manufacturer and supplier Bekaert and by FMH Conveyors, which designs and manufactures material handling products and services.


Bekaert (photo –

Bekaert is undertaking an expansion of its manufacturing operations in Rogers, AR. The Rogers plant opened in 1989 and produces steel cord for the tire industry.

The $32 million expansion will add 50 percent more production capacity to this facility. This Rogers economic development project is expected to create over 100 new jobs and bring added benefits not just for the city, but also for the entire Northwest Arkansas region.

The company already employs 1,600 people across 10 plants and offices in the U.S. and Canada. Bekaert (Euronext Brussels: BEKB), headquartered in Belgium, was founded in 1880 and is now a global company with over 30,000 employees.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, who was present at the Rogers plant for the announcement, said in a statement that “The fact that we are here today celebrating this expansion displays Arkansas’s continued momentum in job creation. Bekaert’s decision to grow in the state is a recognition that Arkansas is prepared to compete and win in job creation.”

Rogers Mayor Greg Hines added that “We are very excited about Bekaert’s upcoming expansion program and the jobs it will create that benefit not just Rogers, but the entire region.”

Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Raymond Burns noted that “This is very personal to me as I worked on the project to bring Bekaert to Rogers originally. It’s great to see them having success, expanding and creating more jobs for our area.”

Meanwhile, material handling equipment company FMH Conveyors is expanding its operations in Jonesboro, AR with the addition of a new 195,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. This $12.5 million project is expected to create 110 new jobs.

FMH Conveyors, which has been manufacturing products locally in Arkansas for over 30 years, is a member of the Downers Grove, IL-based Duravant family of operating companies. Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement that FMH Conveyors is a world-class company that has had a presence in Arkansas for many years, and the fact they chose to expand their operations in Jonesboro is testament to the quality of the local, existing workforce.

“We appreciate the significant investment FMH Conveyors is making in Arkansas and look forward to the company’s continued success and growth,” said Gov. Hutchinson.

Mike Kachmer, president and CEO of Duravant, likewise added that “We are investing accordingly to ensure the highest standards of quality and delivery for our customers, and we are excited to build upon the local talent, resources and partnerships available here in Arkansas.”

ESP Considers Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas For $3B GTL Plant

Energy Security Partners LLC (ESP) and the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, AR have announced that ESP is considering Pine Bluff, AR as the location to build and operate a $3 billion natural gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility.

ESP GTL project in Pine Bluff, AR

ESP GTL project in Pine Bluff, AR (photo –

Little Rock, AR-based Energy Security Partners LLC sees Jefferson County as the prime choice for several reasons, the first of which is its strategic geographical value.

Bryan Barnhouse, director of Economic Development for the Alliance, explained in a statement that “We believe Jefferson County is the best possible location for major industrial projects. It offers access to the Arkansas River, proximity to high voltage lines, interstate gas and product pipelines, access to a major railroad, a terrain with few streams or wetlands issues, and proximity to a major interstate.”

The new GTL facility will produce approximately 33,000 barrels per day of diesel and naphtha and has an anticipated capital cost of approximately $3 billion. The company expects to create 225 new, permanent full-time jobs at the complex with an average wage of $40 per hour.

The construction period is anticipated to create or support more than 5,000 jobs within the state and add $333 million in annual labor income statewide, according to an economic impact analysis performed by EMSI.

The Alliance has been coordinating support for this project since ESP began discussions in 2013. The company completed its application for local incentives last summer. Earlier this year in January, the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation voted to recommend action by the EDCJC.

Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of the Alliance, added that “Our economic development team has worked with Energy Security Partners over the past three years. Our hope is that this offer will instill the confidence that Jefferson County, Arkansas, is open for business and we are prepared to compete for big projects.”

The GTL project qualifies for incentives available through Jefferson County’s 3/8-cent sales tax, which voters approved in 2011 for Jefferson County economic development projects.

The Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County (EDCJC) met yesterday to approve resolutions expressing its intent to offer a formal incentives package of $3.925 million for the ESP GTL project, and to use those incentive funds to purchase land, conduct site preparation, and support the installation of infrastructure.

EDCJC Chairman George Makris said in the release that “This package and this project are exactly in line with the purpose of the County’s voter-approved sales tax. The EDCJC recognizes the soundness of an incentive that develops industrial property to attract investment and supports a project of this magnitude. The economic impact of this project on Jefferson County will be transformational—we’re competing to win.”

Roger Williams, CEO of Energy Security Partners, likewise responded that “This demonstration of support by Jefferson County is a bold step that shows Arkansas can compete for big projects. This sends a strong signal to our investors, the industry, our contractors and strategic partners that we’ve identified an excellent place to locate with great people leading the effort.”

Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), said he commends the Alliance and officials from Jefferson County along with ESP’s leadership for taking these important steps. “Once fully developed, this project could have significant economic impacts for southeast Arkansas,” added Preston.

Arkansas Inc. Brand Seeks to Entice Site Location Consultants In “Good Company”

During his remarks at the Arkansas Economic Developers’ winter conference in Little Rock, AR, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the launch of Arkansas Inc., a new brand campaign to recruit new companies and encourage expansions by existing companies in the state.

Arkansas Inc.

Arkansas Inc. (photo –

The “Arkansas Inc.” brand, aimed at executive decision makers and site-location consultants, makes known the thriving Fortune 500 companies doing business in the state, and will also highlight the state’s success stories in recruiting relocating and expanding businesses.

The brand is accompanied by the tag line that “When you do business in Arkansas, you’re in very Good Company.”

Governor Hutchinson said in a release that in order to continue growing our economy, it is imperative that they tell their story effectively to business leaders and site location consultants around the world.

“‘Arkansas Inc.’ is a very succinct way for us to communicate that we are in the business of growing business and that our state stands ready and able to compete in a rapidly evolving, high-tech worldwide economy,” added Gov. Hutchinson.

One of the focus areas of the accompanying ad campaign for this new brand will be to get this message in front of key decision makers in the firearms manufacturing industry and some other key sectors. The brand and “Good Company” tagline ad campaign will seek to build on the state’s recent successes in attracting projects by firearms companies. Last month, SIG Sauer announced plans to open a new manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, AR, and the Remington Outdoor Company at the same time announced an expansion of its manufacturing operations in Lonoke.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston noted that when it comes down to it, the State of Arkansas operates like a business, and ‘Arkansas Inc.’ better reflects that. “If we want to grow business in Arkansas, we need to tell businesses we understand their needs and can address those needs quickly and decisively,” said Preston.

Preston also pointed out that this is what AEDC is aiming to communicate as they revise executive job titles from government agency descriptions like Deputy Director to more business-minded roles like Executive Vice President. “And these are precisely the key messages we will be striving to convey through ‘Arkansas Inc.,’” added Preston.

The advertising campaign featuring “Arkansas Inc.” begins immediately with an initial $300,000 budget, and includes a strong digital marketing presence along with targeted ads in print economic development publications. Little Rock, AR-based Stone Ward is the ad agency for the campaign, whose overall goals and key performance indicators revolve around a tandem strategy of brand awareness and lead generation.

Sun Paper and Arkansas Governor Sign Letter of Intent For $1.3B Pulp Mill Project

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Chairman and Founder of Sun Paper Hongxin Li have signed a letter of intent of investment cooperation for a $1.3 billion pulp mill project by China-based paper company Sun Paper in Arkansas.


Arkansas (photo – BFS Man/flickr)

Through this letter, Sun Paper commits to studying the feasibility of building a $1.3 billion pulp mill in south Arkansas, which would be their first facility in North America.

The Governor’s Office and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission will be working closely with the company as they finalize details for the location of this project.

The Letter of Intent was signed during an Arkansas trade mission to Asia led by Gov. Hutchinson. “This is another great example of how important these trade missions are in marketing Arkansas to the rest of the world,” said Gov. Hutchinson in a release. “Our time with Sun Paper in China was invaluable as we learned more specifics of the company’s plans for the next several months. As with all prospective projects, working through site location questions is a thorough process and we look forward to continuing to work with the company’s leadership to provide everything needed to make an informed decision.”

Should Sun Paper decide to go ahead with locating a new $1.3 billion factory in Arkansas, it would be comparable to Big River Steel’s investment currently under construction in Mississippi County, AR.

Also present for the Sun Paper Letter of Intent signing ceremony were Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and U.S. Consulate General Charles Bennett.

The employment projections for the project are still under discussion. Shandong, China-based Sun Paper already employs more than 10,000 people worldwide. The company is one of the most advanced transnational enterprises of paper making and integrator of forest-pulp-paper, and one of the biggest private enterprises in China.

The company is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, with core businesses of paper making, chemical industry, foreign trade, power generation, R&D, forest-paper, hotel and investment, among others. The total capital of the company is 26 billion Yuan RMB, and their capacity of pulp and paper production is 4.6 million tons.

The head office of Sun Paper is located in Yanzhou, in Shandong Province. They have 15 branch companies located in China, Southeast Asia and the USA.

Little Rock, Arkansas Will Host Site Selectors Guild, IEDC Economic Development Conferences

Little Rock, AR will play host to two upcoming national economic development conferences. One is the Site Selectors Guild 2016 Fall Forum and the other one is the International Economic Development Council’s 2017 Future Economic Forum.

Little Rock, AR

Little Rock, AR (photo – cliff1066/flickr)

The Site Selectors Guild, which just wrapped up its inaugural Fall Forum in Philadelphia, announced that it will hold its 2016 Fall Forum in Little Rock in October 2016.

The SSG Fall Forum is a formal gathering of international economic developers and member SSG consultants to discuss industry trends, challenges, and related topics, as well as for general networking and a little bit of fun.

The combined membership of the Site Selectors Guild leads corporate location projects valued at more than $30 billion in annual capital expenditures and thousands of new jobs each year. Fifteen of these SSG members participated in this year’s event in Philadelphia, which included private sponsored dinners with Guild members, in addition to the presentations, break-out sessions, corporate panels and other events on the Fall Forum agenda.

Next year, Arkansas and Little Rock will have an opportunity to impress SSG members, corporate leaders and other Fall Forum attendees. Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston said in a release that hosting the Site Selector’s Guild Forum will give them the opportunity to showcase the advantages Arkansas has to offer to companies and site consultants on a global stage.

“Arkansas is a small state with a big story to tell, and we have found that when people come to visit, they always leave impressed,” added Preston.

Little Rock and Arkansas will then have another opportunity to shine in the spotlight of the IEDC 2017 Future Economic Forum ( June 4-6, 2017).

Jim Fram, president and CEO of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership and a member of the IEDC Board of Directors, said in the release that “The 2017 IEDC Conference to be hosted in Little Rock offers the professional economic developers in Arkansas an opportunity to show off our great state to our peers from around the country.”

With more than 4,500 members throughout the world, IEDC members promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities. The 2017 IEDC Future Economic Forum in Little Rock is expected to attract 350 to 400 leading economic development professionals.

The success of these two major events in Little Rock will not only help promote Arkansas as a business destination, but also as a location for more economic development conferences and events in future.

Tyson Foods’ Return to Downtown Springdale Supports Revitalization and Historic Preservation

As part of its continuing commitment to helping rebuild downtown Springdale, AR, Tyson Foods, Inc. has announced plans for bringing some of its operations back to its historic origins on Emma Avenue.

Rendering of Tyson Foods facility on Emma Ave in Springdale, AR

Tyson Foods facility on Emma Ave in Springdale, AR (rendering –

Tyson plans to construct a new two-story, 44,000-square-foot building in between its original headquarters located at 319 E. Emma Ave. and the adjacent building at 317 E. Emma Ave., formerly known as the Brown Hatchery building. The project will preserve the historic frontage of the original buildings.

The original headquarters building dates back to 1920, and was once home to the Springdale Produce Company, owned by John W. Tyson who moved to Springdale during the Great Depression and started delivering chickens to markets in the Midwest. After a fire destroyed it, the building was rebuilt in 1952 and became home to Tyson’s Feed & Hatchery until 1969, at which time Tyson Foods moved to its current location.

Today, Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) employs more than 6,000 people in Springdale and nearly 23,000 people in Arkansas. Globally, Tyson Foods, Inc. has 113,000 team members and generated $37.6 billion in sales in the last fiscal year.

The company works with more than 1,700 family farmers in the state who grow chickens for its operations. The company also purchases cattle, pigs, grain, diesel and other utilities in Arkansas, and estimates its annual statewide economic impact at more than $1.6 billion.

The new facility in downtown Springdale is being built to house about 250 of these jobs. John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, Inc., said in a release that they’re collaborating with Springdale economic development groups and other business leaders on ways to make the area a hub of innovation.

Tyson Foods is also renovating another building located at 516 E. Emma, named the Tyson Foods JTL Building. This facility will become the new home to the Tyson Company Store. About 75 people will work at the JTL Building starting next spring.

Earlier this year, Tyson Foods announced a $1 million gift to the Downtown Springdale Alliance. “While the purpose of that donation was to help jump-start the revitalization of downtown, what’s even more important is bringing people back to Emma Street. That’s why we have plans to locate more than 300 of our corporate Team Members downtown,” added Tyson.

DRA Funding Leverages $108M Investment in Nine Arkansas Economic Development Projects

The Delta Regional Authority announced that the DRA and its partners will invest over $108 million in federal, state, and local resources to support economic development, workforce training, and job creation projects in the Arkansas Delta.

DRA Arkansas investment

DRA Arkansas investment (photo –

Nine Arkansas economic development projects will receive a total of nearly $1.3 million in DRA funding that is leveraging another $7 million in public funds and nearly $100 million more in private investment.

The $1,278,531 in DRA funding will be made through the States’ Economic Development Assistance Program (SEDAP). The breakup of the funding is as follows:

Be Pro. Be Proud, Regionwide – DRA Investment: $250,000; Leveraged Public Investment: $245,700;

Chicot County Waterline Extension, Lake Village – DRA Investment: $65,069; Private Investment: $4,000,000;

Helena Harbor Rail Improvements, Helena – DRA Investment: $155,500; Public Leveraged Investment: $500,000;

Independence County Ozark Mountain Poultry Feed Mill, Magness – DRA Investment: $150,000; Leveraged Public Investment: $3,492,520; Private Investment: $35,000,000;

Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum Expansion, North Little Rock – DRA Investment: $150,000; Leveraged Public Investment: $20,000;

Fairfield Bay Highway 16 Sewer Extension, Fairfield Bay – DRA Investment: $133,266; Leveraged Public Investment: $50,000;

North Little Rock EDC Equipment Purchase, North Little Rock – DRA Investment: $150,000; Public Leveraged Investment: $2,120,000; Private Investment: $60,000,000;

Our House Learning Center Renovation, Little Rock – DRA Investment: $100,000; Leveraged Public Investment: $679,690; Private Investment: $600,000; and

Yellville Rail Spur, Yellville – DRA Investment: $124, 696; Leveraged Public Investment: $45,000.

DRA investments in these projects are expected to help create and retain nearly 1,000 jobs for local residents, and help train 600 residents for jobs in their communities.

DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said in a release announcing the SEDAP funding awards that “These investments strategically leverage funding for projects that will help to address the training and public service needs of our communities while driving economic development and growing small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson added that “I’m especially pleased that we’re investing in the basics – infrastructure, workforce training and education – that will create and retain jobs and businesses and lead to more economic development.”

U.S. Congressman Steve Womack noted that the Yellville Rail Spur project is the first project in Marion County to receive DRA funding, and it will allow the only publicly-accessible rail spur on the Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad to reopen, restoring employment to those who lost jobs in the area due to the rail spur’s closure last year.

“I’m grateful for the leadership that the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson provided to bring this project to the DRA for consideration,” said Womack.

SBA FAST Economic Development Grant Awards Support Small Business Innovation

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced grant awards of $100,000 each for 20 state and local economic development organizations, business development centers, and colleges and universities.

SBA FAST grant awards

SBA FAST grant awards (photo –

These are investments made through the SBA’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program that is designed to stimulate economic development through outreach and technical assistance for science and technology-driven small businesses.

The intent is to increase the participation of small technology firms in innovation and commercialization of new technologies by making it easier for them to compete for SBIR/STTR funding.

Each year, the SBA typically awards a total of $2 million in FAST awards to 20 recipients, each of whom usually gets $100,000. FAST grant awards place a special emphasis on programs that aid socially and economically disadvantaged firms in competing for funding through the SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

For example, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock won a FAST grant award for the sixth year running. FAST-supported services, provided by ASBTDC to university researchers and entrepreneurs at no charge, are important contributors to Little Rock economic development.

Janet Roderick, ASBTDC state director, said in a release that SBIR is an excellent way for small innovation-based companies to bring their ideas to life and to the marketplace, and added that they delight in helping Arkansas entrepreneurs find, apply for and win SBIR funding.

Roderick added that three Arkansas companies that are clients of theirs recently won SBIR grants totaling over $444,000, so the opportunity is real.

SBA Director of Innovation John Williams said in the release that FAST provides boots-on-the-ground support at local levels to help entrepreneurs compete and win SBIR/STTR awards. Williams added that these programs are the largest source of non-diluted early-stage funding in the world, attributing to the success of tens of thousands of firms since being established in 1982.

The SBIR/STTR programs, administered by the SBA, combine and focus the funding power of the SBA and 11 other federal agencies. Last year, these 12 agencies collaborated through these programs to provide more than $2.5 billion in federal R&D funding. The program produces solid results too, with 25 percent of the Top 100 Innovations listed by R&D Magazine coming from SBIR-funded small businesses.

Here’s the full list of this year’s SBA FAST award recipients – Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Minnesota); Innovate Mississippi; Montana Department of Commerce; Ben Franklin Technology Partners Corporation (Pennsylvania); Connecticut Innovations, Inc.; D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development; Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas; University of Delaware; Boise State University; Wichita State University; Louisiana State University and A&M College; University of North Dakota; University of Nebraska at Omaha; The Regents of New Mexico State University; The Research Foundation for the State University of New York; Vermont State Colleges; University of Wyoming; Ohio Aerospace Institute; Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center; and Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company.

Arkansas Approves $87M Bond for Lockheed Martin Super Project in Camden

The Arkansas House and Senate have both passed bills approving an $87.1 million bond for a proposed Lockheed Martin vehicle manufacturing project in Camden, AR.

Lockheed Martin JLTV

Lockheed Martin JLTV (photo –

The bills (HB 1003 and SB 6) passed the House 96-0 and the Senate by 31-3, and will now be sent to Governor Asa Hutchinson for his signature, with a bill signing ceremony and news conference scheduled to be held today.

Lockheed Martin is one of three companies vying for a defense contract to manufacturer the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that is supposed to replace Humvees. The company that gets this contract will be producing approximately 54,600 JLTVs between 2016 and 2040 for the U.S. military, and potentially more for customers from international markets.

If it wins the contract, Lockheed Martin plans to produce the JLTV at its Highland Industrial Park manufacturing facility in East Camden, where it will invest a total of $147.3 million and create 600 new full-time jobs.

Lockheed will also commit to retaining the 556 existing jobs at the Camden facility for the next 25 years. The project is additionally expected to support the creation of another 655 indirect jobs in the region.

The passage of the Amendment 82 super project bond funding bill clears the way for providing Lockheed Martin with whatever assistance it needs to win the contract and get started with the project.

Amendment 82 allows Arkansas lawmakers to use up to five percent of the state’s general revenue budget for a single economic development project. This will be the second time that this bond funding mechanism is being used by the state. The first one was the Big River Steel project, for which the state approved $125 million in bond funding.

Gov. Hutchinson issued a statement after passage of the bond funding for the Lockheed Martin project. “This is an important next step in our attempt to help Lockheed Martin secure a federal Defense contract and create hundreds of new jobs in South Arkansas. The state of Arkansas is doing its part by overwhelmingly passing the Amendment 82 legislation,” said Gov. Hutchinson.

In addition to the $84.645 million in state assistance provided through the bond for infrastructure improvements and job training related to the JLTV, Lockheed Martin will also likely get a package of local economic development incentives from Calhoun County and Ouachita County.

The JLTV project is expected to be a positive development not just for Camden and Calhoun County, but also for the entire South Arkansas region. If Lockheed gets the JLTV project, it will be the first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the state. The Pentagon is expected to make a decision on the JLTV contract later this year in August.

In a release issued before the legislative special session that approved the bond, Gov. Hutchinson said that if East Camden is ultimately chosen as the site for this new facility, South Arkansas will experience a tremendous economic impact for years to come.

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