I would like to talk about a priority I’ve had since taking office in 2015. Job creation is critical to our economic growth and our future as a state.
When I was elected, there were 1.2 million people employed in Arkansas. Even after a global pandemic that impacted much of the world’s working force, Arkansas sits at a 3.5% unemployment rate, and we have 125,000 more people working in jobs around the state today than we did 8 years ago. This is possible thanks to the help of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The state’s economic development team has signed 495 projects since January 2015 resulting in creating more than 25,000 jobs for Arkansans.
In 2022 so far, we have signed 19 new incentive agreements with companies investing their resources into our state, which in turn is creating more than 2,900 jobs for Arkansans. This includes the historic investment with U.S. Steel committing more than $3 billion to create the most advanced steel-making facility in North America in Osceola, Arkansas.
Two weeks ago, I joined Commerce Secretary Mike Preston for a ribbon cutting of Lockheed Martin’s new facility in Camden. They invested more than $142 million to expand their facility by 85,000 square feet to increase production capacity for the world’s most advanced air defense missile.
In that same week, Preformed Line Products announced plans to expand operations in Rogers. They will invest $16 million to expand its Rogers facility by 82,000 square feet and plan to add 50 more employees in the coming months.
Another win for Arkansas is Veolia, which is expanding in Arkadelphia. Veolia is a global company that designs and provides water, waste, and energy management solutions that contribute to the sustainable development of communities and industries. In 2019 alone, Veolia Group supplied 98 million people with drinking water and 67 million people with wastewater service around the globe. Last week, they announced a $600 million investment in Arkadelphia – or specifically, Gum Springs – that will create 125 new jobs by 2024.
And then on Tuesday of this last week, Owens Corning, which produces construction materials, announced plans to expand its existing facility by 70,000 square feet. This $24.5 million investment plans to add 50 new jobs in the Fort Smith area.
Since January 2015, we have lowered taxes, reduced regulations, and increased the speed to market by cutting permitting time — all of which improve growth.
Now we are seeing historical investments with Arkansas companies expanding every week and new companies committing their resources to put down their roots in our state.
Editor’s note: Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., has served as Arkansas governor since 2015. The opinions expressed are those of the author.