Amendment 82 Sets The Stage For Super Projects

 September 21, 2017

In 2003, Arkansas came up short on an opportunity for a $750 million Toyota truck plant. A site near Marion in Crittenden County in east Arkansas was selected and considered a prime location because of its access to the Mississippi River and major east-west and north-south interstates. Toyota, however, chose to locate in San Antonio, TX. Arkansas’ shortcoming was that it couldn’t muster enough incentives to close the deal.

As a result, Amendment 82 was conceived and presented to voters for approval, which they did in 2004. It was further amended in 2010 and once again in 2016.

“Amendment 82 is simply a process by which the state is able to bond in order to offer an incentive to a company to locate here,” said Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Incentives provided under Amendment 82 include funding for infrastructure and other needs including land acquisition, site preparation, environmental studies and mitigation, road improvements, rail access, utility services and employee training. 

“We can pursue super-projects much easier because of Amendment 82,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. “It provides our economic developers with the tools they need to successfully recruit and support major investment.”

Though approved in 2004, it would be almost ten years later before Amendment 82 was successfully utilized. 

“We would not be here were it not for Amendment 82,” said David Stickler, CEO of Big River Steel.

Big River Steel wanted to build a scrap recycling and steel mill in northeast Arkansas on the banks of the Mississippi River. The site had everything the company desired: easy access to the river, an updated railway network for access to all parts of the country and a multi-directional interstate highway system. Amendment 82 closed the deal for Big River Steel, which resulted in the construction of a $1.3 billion plant in Mississippi County employing 525 people.

“Simply put, without Amendment 82 we would have built our state-of-art facility in another southern state that could offer us the incentives we needed to make this project work,” said Stickler.

Approximately 5,500 Arkansans are directly employed in Arkansas’ steel industry. Job growth in that sector has grown 39 percent since 2009 and Mississippi County is now the fourth-largest steel producing county in the United States.

Preston said it all started with Amendment 82.

“In the case of Big River Steel, we were able to bond to help on infrastructure costs to help get the construction project out of the ground. The state was able to raise the funds through bonding and be a small investor in a multi-billion-dollar industry,” said Preston.

Voters further strengthened Amendment 82 in 2016, when they approved language effectively removing the dollar limit on state bonds issued for economic development, which was 5 percent of state general revenues. It also clarified the authority of counties and municipalities to issue their own bonds for economic development projects instead of industrial development purposes.

Gov. Hutchinson said the continued improvements in Amendment 82 are important to helping Arkansas maintain a competitive edge.

“I hope, and believe, that Amendment 82 will continue to bring opportunity in the future for additional investment in Arkansas,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

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