It hasn't been the best of times for “The Natural State.” Unemployment officially hit 8.3 percent back in August and like most Americans, its residents list the economy as the chief source of concern right now.
New Millennium Building Systems, a maker
of steel joists, is one of several companies
adding employees to factories in Arkansas.
Look, I'm not going to sit here and profess some long-lasting bond with Arkansas. Truth is the only connection I share with the state is that I used to room with a former Razorback drop-out who never cleaned the kitchen.
However, I am very heartened to read about the local manufacturing there, which is showing some very promising signs of generating much needed jobs and revenue for the state. Some important developments:
-Unilever, maker of food, home care and personal products, announced it will spend $40 million to expand its plant based in Jonesboro, Ark, adding 125 jobs to the 400 already in place.
-After acquiring facilities from Commercial Metals in Hope, Arkansas last September, New Millennium Building Systems, which builds steel joists, has installed $4 million worth of equipment and hired 58 employees at its new location. It hopes to hire 120 more as it reaches full capacity.
-Arez LLC, an Irish-based printing ink resin company, is only a month away from completing construction of its new headquarters in Crossett, Arkansas. Announced last year, the company is expected to create 121 jobs and receive a 3 percent payroll income tax credit for its employees the first five years.
-Last month, American Railcar announced it would hire 700 workers throughout Marmaduke and Paragould, Arkansas, as well as Kennett, Missouri. The company needs more workers to construct around 1,000 completely new freight cars for the expanding natural gas industry in the region, as well as 30, 000 cars overall for the year.
-The Fed's annual “Beige Book” economic report listed Arkansas as part of the key regions where manufacturing output increased.
Okay, so even with four companies moving to set up shop and the Fed listing Arkansas as a manufacturing hot spot, we've only knocked that unemployment number down to 8.27 percent.
However, this story may be the best news yet for Arkansas:
“Four students from the University of Arkansas have launched a startup company around technology developed by University of Minnesota biochemist Simo Sarkanen that would produce biodegradable plastic shopping bags.
..."Our product will biodegrade in 150 days," says [Nhiem Cao, president and CEO of cycleWood Solutions]. "Instead of having a growing problem, the problem will gradually go away."
– Daily News, Oct. 17, 2011
A homegrown start-up that wants to stay home, is environmental friendly, and has potential to skyrocket in demand (I can literally pull off the internet hundreds of community retail businesses in the city of Los Angeles that would order something like this in a heartbeat) is a light at the end of the tunnel.
It may only be as bright as a match, and that tunnel may be the Bobby Hopper, but if it takes off, it bodes well for Arkansas's future employment opportunities.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.