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Celebrating Arkansas’ Wins During Economic Development Week

 May 10, 2022

Every day, there is important work going on in Arkansas to make The Natural State more economically prosperous and vibrant. From one corner of the state to the other, economic development professionals are working hard to increase quality of life and to make their communities more business-friendly.

All these efforts create a cumulative effect – making Arkansas a state where people want to live and work.

Often, economic development takes time. It can be months and even years before the work that goes into economic development efforts comes to fruition. This important work can be unsung, and it’s vital to the growth of our economy. It takes patience, but the wait and effort will pay off in the end.

For all these reasons, it’s important to celebrate economic development in Arkansas. We are proud to recognize Economic Development Week, a celebration of economic development efforts, from May 9-13.

Created in 2016, Economic Development Week helps raise awareness of economic development efforts that create new jobs and increase quality of life around the United States. The International Economic Development Council created Economic Development Week to provide a platform to highlight economic development professionals and the contributions they make to their communities.

As the Arkansas Secretary of Commerce and Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), I have the privilege and honor of leading a talented team of economic development professionals who are helping to chart a brighter future for Arkansas.

At AEDC, we strive to help create more economic opportunities for Arkansans around the state by attracting new companies with high-paying jobs and helping existing businesses expand.

Since 2015, AEDC has signed 559 incentive agreements with new and expanding jobs, resulting in 27,042 new jobs for Arkansans and approximately $14 billion in capital investment. In addition, there are 106,100 more people employed now than in January 2015.

Just this year, we have scored major economic development wins that will pay dividends for years to come.

Arkansas unveiled the largest capital investment in the state’s history in January 2022 with U.S. Steel’s announcement of a new advanced steelmaking facility in Osceola. The company broke ground on this $3 billion facility – the most advanced facility of its type in North America – in February.

This facility solidifies Arkansas as a steelmaking hub for the United States. It will be an industry-leading facility and will create 900 jobs in the region along with thousands of construction jobs.

U.S. Steel isn’t the only metals company that has expanded in Arkansas this year. W&W|AFCO Steel and Dark Threat Fabrication both announced expansions in Little Rock and Heber Springs, respectively. W&W|AFCO Steel will be building a new steel fabrication facility at the Port of Little Rock, investing $18.7 million and creating 115 new jobs. Dark Threat Fabrication will be investing $7.65 million to expand its Heber Springs facility and add 75 new jobs.

Companies representing a variety of industries have announced expansions in Arkansas this year, including Tractor Supply Company (Maumelle), Bryce Corporation (Searcy), Hostess Brands (Arkadelphia), Canfor Corporation (Urbana), Independent Stave Company (Independence County), Synthesia Technology Inc. (Little Rock), Phoenix Innovations (Russellville), The Systems Group (El Dorado), and Atlas Tube (Blytheville).

These projects did not come together without hard work from many people at the state and local levels.

At the end of the day, economic development is a team sport. It takes many different people to do the work that leads to these wins. Within AEDC, there are multiple divisions that play critical roles in our economic development efforts. We also work with utility companies, local and regional economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, existing Arkansas businesses, federal partners and many others to grow Arkansas’ economy and opportunities.

In Arkansas, we all pitch in to help attract and retain vital businesses and increase jobs. From our CEO, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, to our federal delegation to local officials to business leaders and beyond, we all have a part to play in keeping Arkansas’ economy strong and working to improve it.

People are taking notice of our strong economy and attractive lifestyle opportunities. Our diverse economy, which offers high-paying jobs and unmatched outdoor recreation have made Arkansas a destination state. According to the 2021-22 HireAHelper U.S. Migration Report, Arkansas had the highest percentage of inbound movers throughout the United States in 2021.

This growth was the result of economic development efforts that have been ongoing for years.

Let’s take this week to recognize our economic developers, look back on our fantastic growth, and move forward into Arkansas’ bright future.