Hefei Risever Machinery Co. (Risever) announced Wednesday (Oct. 25) it will invest $20 million to build a facility inside the Craighead Technology Park in Jonesboro. The plant will employ 130 workers when operational, and the average wage will be $18 per hour.
Risever General Manager Yonggang Lai, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin, and a host of other political and civic leaders made the announcement from the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro.
“I think you guys like good news up here,” Hutchinson said to a standing room only crowd. “I like coming up here to give you good news.”
The plant should be operational in late spring or in early summer 2019, Lai said. It’s the first plant Risever will build in the U.S. The company makes steel machine parts for heavy construction equipment. Counter weights, and boom arms for excavators and other earth moving equipment are among the products produced by the company. Its customers include Caterpillar, Volvo, Terex, and Komatsu.
Risever began a “Made in America” project in 2016, he said. At least 70 communities in five different states were considered, Lai said. Jonesboro was chosen because of its educated workforce, access to professional development through ASU and other academic institutions, the friendly working atmosphere with local civic officials and the quality of life in the city.
“We are committed to providing high quality products for our customers, and providing our workers with the tools they need to be successful,” he said.
Hutchinson offered Risever $1 million – just under $7,700 per new job – from the Arkansas Economic Development’s Quick Action Closing Fund to help seal the company’s decision. AEDC Director Mike Preston told Talk Business & Politics the money will be used for sewer lines and other costs associated with the construction of the building. Another $100,000 for workforce training was a part of the offer package. Risever will also receive rebates on its payroll taxes based on number of jobs targets, Preston said. Risever spent 10 months negotiating the deal with AEDC and Jonesboro Unlimited, a private partnership organization that focuses on economic development in Jonesboro.
This is the fifth company from China to create jobs in Arkansas since Hutchinson became the governor in 2015. Hutchinson said during the announcement he will make his third trip to China next week.
The state’s unemployment average has hovered near 3.5% for months, and at least 60,000 jobs have been created in the last two years, the governor said. Despite these positive jobs sector numbers, Hutchinson said the state needs to remain proactive.
“Arkansas is garnering international attention as a great place to do business. Our economic development trips to China and AEDC’s presence in China are paying dividends,” he said. “Risever is the latest example of several Chinese companies that have selected Arkansas because of these relationships as well as our skilled workforce and cost of doing business. I wish them success as they join Jonesboro’s thriving business community.”
Risever was founded in 1999 and is based in Hefei, China. It employs about 1,000 workers in China. Lai’s parents are the company’s founders. It ships 70,0000 tons of welded counterweights each year, and produces 30,000 tons of fabricated parts each year. The Jonesboro plant is projected to have an annual production capacity of 18,000 tons of steel per year.
Chinese companies are making moves within the Natural State. When Lai was asked if his company’s decision to come here will motivate others in his native country to come to Arkansas, he smiled.
“I don’t believe we will be the last one.”