LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe on Monday announced a new initiative to market large-acreage sites designed to attract major manufacturers.
The governor and Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said so-called “mega sites” sites in West Memphis and near the East End Community in Saline County have already received the “Advance Arkansas Sites” distinction, and more could be coming soon.
“Arkansas must use every tool available to highlight our state’s economic advantages in a competitive global marketplace,” Beebe said during a news conference at the state Capitol. “Companies looking to call Arkansas home need easy access to the right information that will immediately put us in the conversation for potential projects large and small alike.”
The West Memphis site, which is on about 1,400 acres of land, and the East End Community site, on more than 2,000 acres, will give the state options to pursue large projects such as automobile manufacturing plants, Tennille said.
Tennille said his agency has spent a considerable amount of time researching and identifying the so-called mega-sites that have the capability for rapid industrial development and meet AEDC highest standards of quality.
“In order for Arkansas to stay competitive we’ve got to identify these sites, we need to get the work done in advance and we’ve got to begin to market them to companies around the country and around the world to make sure they’re aware that Arkansas has the capability for rapid expansion and large-scale industrial development,” he said.
He said the idea for the new initiative developed after trying to locate a site for the proposed $1.1 billion Big River Steel plant in northeastern Arkansas.
The steel plant, announced in January, is to be located just outside Osceola in Mississippi County and is expected to generate 2,000 jobs during construction and employ more than 520 permanent workers with average salaries of $75,000 when production begins in late 2015.
Construction on the superproject has been delayed because of a challenge to it’s air quality permit. A hearing on the challenge by rival Nucor Inc. is scheduled for Feb. 18.