A Chinese clothing maker that signed one of several deals with Gov. Asa Hutchinson to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. has begun production and posted “help wanted” signs on its newly-created website to fill vacancies at its new Little Rock port location.
According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and Little Rock Pork Authority (LRPA) officials, the Arkansas affiliate of Chinese sport apparel manufacturer Suzhou Tianyuan Garments Company began producing goods for Adidas in January – just short of the company’s goal to jumpstart the Central Arkansas facility in late 2017.
In a ceremony at the State Capitol that has been highlighted by U.S. and international trade officials as the first Chinese garment maker to locate in the U.S., Gov. Hutchinson and AEDC Director Mike Preston signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2016. Company officials said they would invest more than $20 million and bring 400 jobs paying an average of $14 an hour with benefits to the Little Rock area.
“They are up and running with just a little under 100 employees. They are still hiring and working to fill those jobs,” LRPA Executive Director Bryan Day told Talk Business & Politics on Thursday (June 21).
Just over a year ago, the Little Rock industrial park signed a lease with a Chinese sport apparel manufacturer’s Arkansas affiliate, TY Garments, to locate at a site near the city’s Fourche Dam Pike just off the Arkansas River. Public records show the Chinese company purchased a 100,000-square-foot building for $1.85 million in the city’s industrial community that is within minutes of rail, waterway and air transportation to get Arkansas-produced goods to market.
State corporate filings show the Chinese garment maker has a manufacturer’s production rate of nearly 10 million articles of clothing and annually incorporated as an Arkansas limited liability partnership only a month after signing its deal with the governor and AEDC officials.
Now operating under the TY Garments moniker, the Chinese clothing manufacturer will join Mumbai, India-based Welspun Tubular and the former Denmark-owned LM Wind Power as key overseas industrial prospect that state and local economic development were able to attract to one of state’s largest industrial parks.
According to company officials, the Little Rock factory clothing mill will mainly supply Adidas, which is the world’s second-largest sporting goods conglomerate behind Nike. And the end of 2017, Suzhou Tianyuan supplied 90% of the garments marketed by Adidas. The Chinese garment market also manufacturers clothing for British sporting equipment giant Reebok and Giorgi Armani, the high-end Italian brand now based in New York City.
After announcing plans to locate its first U.S. plant in Little Rock, AEDC offered Suzhou Tianyuan an incentive package that will include a five-year, 3.9% annual tax rebate worth nearly $1.6 million annually. Other incentives include a $1 million infrastructure assistance grant for building improvements and equipment purchases, as well as a $500,000 stipend for worker training.
AEDC is also assisting the Chinese garment manufacturer in getting 20 work visas for company executives who will live in Arkansas or travel between the U.S. and China on business related to the Little Rock plant. The Chinese garment maker also will receive abatement of up to 65% of property taxes from the city of Little Rock and Pulaski County.
Talk Business & Politics was unable to speak directly with Suzhou Tianyuan officials concerning how many local workers the company plans to hire to meet production needs. The company’s website, which sports a “we’re hiring” page and a photo gallery showcasing the local factory, says that “TY USA offers many entry-level positions with room for growth.”
The TY Garment facility is part of the recent uptick in Arkansas’ manufacturing sector. Last week, state labor officials reported 1,200 jobs were added at mostly “soft good” factories across the state between May and June. For the year, Arkansas manufacturers have added 4,100 jobs, boosting the total number of blue-collar jobs in the sector to 160,300.