EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of the four-part series Decoding the Decade examining the community's successes and growth. Today's installment highlights industrial growth and achievements.
Cooper Tire adds workers
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. moved to a 24/7 operation in response to a growing market demand. By April, the company had hired about 220 workers to meet the demands of the increased production, but attrition reduced the net hires to between 120 and 150.
The Texarkana plant also picked up 80 workers from the Albany, Ga., plant closed by Cooper Tire officials after a three-month capacity study the company conducted to look for ways to reduce operating costs.
By the end of the year, Cooper Tire announced the local plant would get an extra $13 million, part of the company's growth plans for its facilities in North America and Asia. The money would not only be used for new designs for the radial light truck and sport utility vehicle tire, but also for new equipment to enhance production and increase efficiency. The money would bring 125 jobs to the Texarkana plant in 2011. The local plant opened in April 1964.
Army transfers land for redevelopment
Red River Redevelopment Authority officially became owner of the 8,874 acres that once had been Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant (located between Hooks and New Boston, Texas) with a formal signing of the transfer occurring when local officials traveled to Washington, D.C.
The land was divided three ways. RRRA received 8,874 acres; Day & Zimmermann, operating contractor at the site since 1951, received 5,424 acres; and the Army retained 2,800 acres to be cleared before being transferred.
The acreage allowed D&Z to move from a government contractor to a commercial operator. Red River Redevelopment officials are using its portion for economic development and job creation.
The transfer was accompanied by a new look and name for Red River Commerce Park overseen by the redevelopment authority and its board of directors. In September, the area was renamed TexAmericas Center, with the new property named TexAmericas Center-East.
Proceeds from the sale and lease of LSAAP land for economic development were used for road construction and public buildings; transportation management facilities; building rehabilitation; and site improvements, such as grading and landscaping.
$2 billion power plant good to go
The John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant, a $1.7 billion coal-fired plant construction in Hempstead County, Ark., began 2011 in court but ended the year clear of all its legal challenges.
When the final hurdles were cleared the plant was more than 80 percent complete, with at least 1,800 people working on site. It was on target to be operational in late 2012, with 110 full-time employees.
But there was still opposition when the year began.
Hempstead County Hunting Club, filing an appeal with the Arkansas Court of Appeals concerning an air permit for the plant.
In March, SWEPCO and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., co-owners of the plant, formed the Arkansas Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy in support of the plant. The end of March saw Arkansas state legislators approving a measure clarifying the way state regulators approve power plant construction. Gov. Mike Beebe signed the measure in April.
By July, Hempstead County Hunting Club and SWEPCO announced they had reached a settlement on the air permit and the Section 404 permits. The hunting club said it would pull its legal challenges against the plant, and SWEPCO announced, among other things, it would not build additional generation units at Turk or build power plants in Arkansas within 30 miles of Turk.
In September, workers were evacuated at least three times because of bomb threats.
In October, the Sierra Club and Audubon Society filed another petition with the PSC against the plant, but on Dec. 22 announced they had reached a settlement. At this point SWEPCO could move forward free and clear from legal challenges.
SWEPCO owns 73 percent of the plant; Arkansas Electric Cooperative owns 12 percent; East Texas Electric Cooperative owns 8 percent; and Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority has the remaining 7 percent.
Firestone plant expansion celebrated
Firestone, community and political leaders, including Gov. Mike Beebe and U.S. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), celebrated the expansion of the Prescott, Ark.'s, manufacturing facility.
By keeping the Firestone Building Products Co. open, the company retained 418 jobs and added another 100.
The Prescott plant was on the verge of closing when the company decided to keep the Prescott operation open. Instead, Firestone closed its Kingstree, S.C. facility.
"The single most important quality in a community is the work force. The work force requires higher skills and training, and the bar has been raised higher these days," said Beebe at the time. "If Prescott had lost Firestone, I shudder what would have happened. Pull 400 jobs out of Southwest Arkansas, and it's absolutely devastating."
Ken Weaver, president of Firestone Building Products, said, "What made this happen is that none of us are as good as all of us. The decision to add jobs is a reflection of everyone in this room. The decision makes us feel comfortable and the next 40 years will be even better."
Accounting services at army depot get new home
Officials turned the dirt for a new Defense Finance and Accounting Service administrative building. DFAS is a tenant organization of Red River Army Depot and provides accounting and payroll services for Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities. The new $14 million, 44,000-square-foot facility will house the service's 250 employees and double the space from its current 25,000-square-feet space.
Georgia-Pacific invests $37 million in Gurdon, Ark.
n Gurdon, Ark., renewed optimism after Georgia-Pacific announced plans to invest $37 million at the lumber operations there.
Georgia-Pacific expanded its production capacity at the lumber mill by about 60 percent.
Improvements included installing a new continuous dry kiln and planer mill, and other infrastructure improvements.
The project was completed in 2015.
Georgia-Pacific has eight facilities in Arkansas, five of which are part of the building products division. The company employed about 2,700 people in Arkansas in 2014, with around 630 people at the Gurdon operations.
Neighborhood Markets start popping up, have since gone mainstream
n In January 2015, Walmart opened Neighborhood Markets in DeKalb and Lone Star. Walmart also opened a Neighborhood Market on Summerhill Road in Texarkana, Texas. The purpose of the market was to provide residents with lower prices on a broad assortment of merchandise including fresh produce, meats and other items. In March, another Neighborhood Market Walmart opened in Wake Village. The store was built at 200 Wake Village Road, which is at the northwest corner of Wake Village Avenue and Seventh Street.
In April, a Walmart Neighborhood Market opened at 3520 Richmond Road. Walmart also unveiled a $1 million renovation at the store on the Arkansas-side of Texarkana. The Texarkana, Ark., Walmart originally opened in 1982 and the management had spent the previous two years planning the renovation.
Alcoa opens part of shuttered Nash plant
Alcoa restarted its Nash, Texas, operation to meet the demand for aluminum slab for the automotive industry. The move was to bring 80 full-time positions before 2016. The $6 million investment was to restart two casting pits that had been idle since 2009.
"This is huge. They are opening up the cast house where they melt down the bars and make slabs that go out to the various manufactures using aluminum," said Nash Mayor Robert Bunch said at the time. "Aluminum is becoming more popular now in the aerospace and the automotive industry. This will bring some people back, as well as bring in some new ones into the manufacturing side of the business. I think it will bring economic development to Nash, as well as Texarkana."
The $6 million investment will restart two casting pits in Alcoa. At that time, finished products were made on site. Bunch said the plant's reopening is just what many involved in the process had hoped for.
He added that the positions at Alcoa will pay in excess of $20 an hour. "It was always our hope, because they didn't sell the property or completely move the equipment, that they would come back," Bunch said. "It's a partial opening, but its a great start to getting it online."
Bunch said the cities of Nash and Texarkana made concessions, as did Bowie County and Texarkana College, to entice the manufacturer to come back to Texarkana instead of moving somewhere else.
"Automakers who are increasingly using aluminum in their cars and trucks are the big drivers behind (this) announcement," said Mark Vrablec, president of Alcoa Aerospace Transportation and Industrial Products."
Domtar in Ashdown completes $160 million conversion
Domtar's Ashdown, Ark.-based paper mill underwent a $160 million conversion to convert the plant's paper producing machinery into fluff pulp producing machinery. This conversion was the largest capital investment project undertaken by the company to date, making it the world's third-largest fluff pulp producing plant. It provides up to 516,000 metric tons of fluff pulp per year. What if fluff pulp? It is the stuff they stuff diapers with.
The "fiber of the future" is now being manufactured at the Domtar Ashdown mill by the the A1 fluff pulp machine.
Actual construction began in March 2016, with the demolition of the A64 paper machine.
Bob Grygotis, the Ashdown mill manager, said at the time, "This investment will provide a bright future for the mill at Ashdown and offer a new product line that will service our customers well into the future." Grygotis said.
The fluff pulp conversion is part of a broader company plan.
"The fluff pulp conversion project at the Ashdown mill is an important step in advancing our strategy to generate $300 to $500 million from growth businesses," said John D. Williams, chief executive officer. "We are expanding our presence in a growing business that will allow us to support our top-tier supplier position with some of the world's largest producers of absorbent hygiene products."
Domtar announced the project in December 2014 and completed the conversion in 2016.
Governors launch REDI
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke to a crowd in front of downtown Texarkana's U.S. Post Office and Courthouse building, half of which is in one state and half in the other. The recently formed AR-TX Regional Economic Development Incorporation staged the event to announce its goal: attracting businesses and new jobs to the region, regardless of which state they come to.
AR-TX Regional Economic Development Incorporation, which was announced in April of that year, aims to take a vigorous approach to attracting businesses to the area, providing leadership and coordinating the region's numerous development organizations.
"Our region is poised for exponential economic growth within the logistic, manufacturing, transportation and medical sectors, but we need a unified vision to successfully connect our resources with potential employers," board President Sonja Hubbard said then. "The AR-TX REDI model will benefit the entire region and work across state lines to attract new commerce. A win for any area with our region is a win for us all," .
The idea is to create a single point of contact that can connect localities with business opportunities, to be proactive and aggressive in attracting job-creating businesses to the region.
The funding goal for the group's first five years is $600,000 per year, half of which is to come from private foundations and half from local business leaders.
REDI will also ask local public and private entities—including both cities of Texarkana; Bowie County, Texas; and Miller County, Ark.—to begin setting aside funds in preparation for offering businesses financial incentives in the future.
The other chief function of AR-TX REDI will be to actively market the region and recruit new businesses and industries to locate here.
"If you look at population projections, they're huge for the future, and we look at all the room we have, all the roads we have, all the water we have, we know that we've got a great future if we can tell our story," said board member James Henry Russell, then-president of Texarkana College. "If we get that story out there, we do believe they will come."
REDI names first CEO
Rob Sitterley was named the first president and CEO of AR-TX Regional Economic Development Inc. The organization is devoted to bringing businesses and jobs to the Texarkana region.
Sitterley left his position as a principal of Merit Advisors LLC. Previously, he headed the business development team for Florida's principal economic development organization, a public-private partnership called Enterprise Florida Inc.
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Cooper celebrates millions of tires
Texarkana's Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. plant celebrated rolling its 400 millionth tire off the line. The number represents the most tires produced by a single Cooper plant in the company's history, said Scott Cole, Cooper's Texarkana plant manager.
The 400 millionth tire was produced Feb. 8 and is a Discoverer STT Pro, which the company touts as an extreme all-season, off-road performance tire with outstanding on-road traction.
Texarkana's Cooper plant has been manufacturing tires since 1964 and employs about 1,700 people.
Cooper employees and officials, along with community leaders, gathered at the plant to celebrate.
Texarkana Plant Manager Scott Cole hosted the event. "I am proud of the Texarkana team and all they have been able to achieve over the years, including this milestone of producing 400 million tires. For perspective, 400 million tires, stacked end-to-end, would stretch nearly 200,000 miles or the equivalent of eight trips around the world," he said.
FedEx opens new freight service center here
The sprawling, sparkling, spit-shined and brand new FedEx Service Center was built on U.S. Highway 67 with the expectation it will expand in size, capacity and staffing.
Many local luminaries attended its opening.
Located just northeast of the Texarkana, Ark., city limit along the Interstate 30 corridor, the center syncs with a growing ground transportation system that opens it to a world of possibilities, company officials said.
Because expandability is built into its design, the new facility can meet current needs and then be modified to meet future transportation activity.
"This is the perfect location to process freight coming out of locations like Memphis and Houston," said Gann Brooks, Director of Operations in Arkansas and Oklahoma, whose district includes the new facility. "We knew we wanted to build in this area. We took time to figure out exactly where, but this was it."
The new facility will initially employ around 100 workers. It has 155 working freight doors and is a 132,000 square foot working area located on 60 acres near the Mandeville I-30 exit. It is a state-of-the-art facility, applying the knowledge of both what FedEx has learned about these kinds of facilities in the past as well as anticipated needs.
"The choice of location here in Texarkana is a statement of confidence from the company," said John Smith, president and CEO of FedEx Freight."We want to be ready for the expansion of the transportation network, allowing for growth over the next few decades."