Intimidator Inc. is set to invest $12 million and build a second facility in Batesville, adding 400 full-time workers to its payroll during the next four years. The company now employs about 80 workers at its facility in the city’s industrial park.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the Monday morning (Sept. 19) announcement and said high paying manufacturing jobs are key to the state’s economic growth.
“This is the most rewarding part of my job as governor … jobs are critically important to Arkansas,” he said.
Intimidator makes zero-turn lawn mowers and 4X4 utility vehicles. Workers will be paid on average about $18 per hour, Hutchinson said. No date for construction was included in the announcement. When the company will start hiring new workers has not been determined.
Intimidator is owned by Becky and Robert Foster of Batesville, the former owners of Bad Boy Mowers. The couple also owns Bad Dawg Accessories, Spartan Mowers, and Gourmet Guru Grill. These businesses employ 111 workers, according to the family. Intimidator products are sold through at least 65 dealers throughout the United States.
The state will give Intimidator a $1.5 million Community Development block grant, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The company will also receive other state incentives including a 4.25% of their payroll cash rebate from the state during the first five years of operation. Intimidator will also qualify for state tax back considerations on its building materials, machinery, and other equipment bought as a part of the expansion.
Growth in the zero turn mower market, and a surge in utility terrain vehicle sales prompted the expansion, according to the company.
David Crocker, a senior analyst and principal with Power Products Marketing, said earlier this year that initial estimates suggest UTV North American sales were up 5% in 2015, but are projected to top out at 1% growth in 2016.
Job growth in the state has been excellent in recent years, AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston told Talk Business & Politics. The state’s unemployment rate is below 4% meaning officials can focus on wage growth and workforce development, he said. Tax and regulations cuts are key to attracting better paying jobs to the state, he added.
AEDC hasn’t not decided what legislative agenda it will pursue once the session opens early next year, Preston said.
A good jobs market also allows the state to use its resources to attract higher paying jobs, Preston said. The governor said wage stagnation was a core problem in the state. Low unemployment rates naturally lead to more competition for workers, and that typically leads to higher wages, he said.
Manufacturing job growth has not been as solid as the overall state numbers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Arkansas had 153,200 manufacturing jobs in July, down from 154,700 in July 2015, and down 3.6% from the 159,000 manufacturing jobs in July 2011. Arkansas’ manufacturing jobs peaked at 247,300 in February 1995.