Asa Hutchinson | Arkansas Governor
One of the great parts of being governor is getting invited to events all over the state celebrating community achievements, showcasing outstanding people and, my personal favorite, advancing job creation. That’s exactly what I did last week in Rogers and Jonesboro.
Bekaert Corporation, a world leader in steel wire transformation, has made the decision to expand their manufacturing facility in Rogers. They are investing $32 million in the expansion project, which will create 109 new jobs.
More than 30 percent of all tires are reinforced with Bekaert products. Following the expansion, Raymond Burns, President of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, said that when Bekaert first came to Arkansas, it was the biggest economic project in our state’s history. They saw the competitive advantages of our central location and proximity to customers.
Another surprising factor that played into Bekaert’s relocation was looking into our public education system. The Belgium-based company wanted to ensure they would have skilled workers to employ, and know the children of relocated Belgium workers would be well educated. As a father of four and grandfather, I understand this important concern. But as it turned out, our public school system passed the test, and in 1989, Bekaert selected Rogers for its second Arkansas-based plant.
Few people realize how many products are made of steel wire – staples, nails, fences and more. In order to meet the needs of the market and have the capacity to increase production, an expansion was necessary. And with Rogers housing one of Bekaert’s premier U.S. plants, it was an easy choice to expand their existing Northwest Arkansas plant.
In addition to the Bekaert expansion, I also attended a second announcement in Jonesboro at FMH Conveyors, who is a global leader in material handling equipment for truck loading and unloading applications. They are investing $12.5 million into a new, 195,000 square-foot, custom-built manufacturing facility. The expansion will create 110 new jobs in Jonesboro and will retain 50 existing jobs.
As a lifelong Arkansan, I can attest to the fact that FMH Conveyors has had a presence in Arkansas for many years, and their decision to expand operations is a testament to local talent and resources here. It was a highly competitive process. Mark Young, President of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, credits the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for much of the project’s success. I wanted to do my part as well, so I called the CEO and made the case for Arkansas.
With the help of AEDC and support from my office, FMH Conveyors did their homework and easily saw the quality of the region’s workforce. It’s important to note that every single position represents not just a person, but a family. And for that reason, it’s even more exciting to see the expansion triple the number of existing jobs at FMH Conveyors in Jonesboro.
These expansions, and the many others I’ve attended over the past year, are sending a strong message to companies across the globe that Arkansas is a great place to do business. Both expansion announcements tell a story about Arkansas’s business-friendly communities and our ideal climate for recruiting and retaining industry. Any time our economic base grows, it’s good news for our communities, good news for our families, and it’s good news for Arkansas.