With 750 new jobs announced over a three-day period, the state’s top jobs recruiter says the pipeline “is full” for more and he expects to close most, if not all, of the previously announced Chinese companies coming to Arkansas.
Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Preston said all three of this week’s announced projects – CZ-USA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Dragon Woodland – are part of targeted industries that the state has been pursuing. CZ-USA is a firearms manufacturer, Aerojet’s expansion falls in the aerospace and defense industry, and Dragon Woodland is a timber firm, which is part of the state’s efforts to capitalize on natural resources.
Preston said he thinks the Southern U.S. will remain a hotbed for firearms manufacturing recruiting due to the outdoor lifestyle and gun culture of the region, especially as other states push to make it more difficult for gunmakers.
“[W]hen you see those issues passing in legislatures in states like New York and Massachusetts in the Northeast where traditionally a lot of gun manufacturers have been, they look to the South as somewhere where they can go and actually manufacture their guns and still sell them. So I think for states like Arkansas it is going to be a competitive market for years to come,” he said.
Preston said that the state’s Chinese projects are “strong” overall. He noted that Tianyuan, a Chinese-based apparel company in Little Rock have over 100 workers and is looking to add more. Risever and Sun Paper in Jonesboro and near Arkadelphia, respectively, are still on go. He doesn’t see a down side for an eventual U.S.-China trade agreement to end the tariff wars of the last year.
“For our deals, I don’t think it would be bad. I think they look at that relationship with China and the U.S. as being positive. They need that relationship to happen to continue to make the investment,” he said.
There has been speculation that Ruyi, a textile company that was to locate in Forrest City, may be undone, but Preston said he believes the trade wars simply focused attention elsewhere as Ruyi has been making acquisitions abroad. He still is hopeful that it will come online in Arkansas.
“Once those acquisitions are completed, we’re hoping that they’re coming back and going to refocus. The trade war certainly didn’t help that process of them being able to come back. I think they’re putting some more focus on other countries for right now and waiting to see what happens on that. The good news is, is that they’ve bought the building. They own it, that deal is closed. They’re in ownership of the building. We just need to see them to start making some progress,” he said.
You can watch Preston’s full interview in the video below.