Arkansas IDs 2 Sites for Possible Big Factories

CHUCK BARTELS | AP Business Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas officials announced Monday that sites in Saline County and West Memphis are ready to develop factories but are still waiting for automobile plants and other big employers to come calling.

Gov. Mike Beebe announced "Advance Arkansas Sites" effort as a way to quickly show industry that sites are ready to go for companies that need more than 1,000 acres and millions of square feet of manufacturing space.

Economic development organizations in Saline County and West Memphis paid for engineering studies and secured options on the land to eliminate two key steps companies would have to take to open shop. The engineering work on natural gas, electric, and water and sewer utilities is already done.

"These sites are ready to go," said Grant Tennille, director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

The Saline County site has 2,045 acres, and the West Memphis site is 1,420 acres. The state listing for them includes details on available workforce, training opportunities, cost of living statistics and other information.

The sites are similar in the scale of employers they can accommodate but there are differences. The West Memphis site has access to the Mississippi River and major highways – Interstates 40 and 55. The Saline County site doesn't have the river access but it is near Interstates 30 and 40.

Tennille said having the sites ready can bring "rapid industrial development in order for Arkansas to stay competitive (and) market to companies around the world."

He noted that major employers insist on being near primary rail lines and highways but said less well-situated counties still need to do similar work to prepare sites for smaller operations that can still bring good jobs.

Tennille acknowledged that Arkansas is catching up to competing states in listing the sites and said more communities are exploring whether they have parcels that can be similarly prepared.

The AEDC has an Internet listing of about 250 industrial sites across the state. Tennille said the agency can tell where people browsing the site are and said it get hits from around the world.

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