NASH Texas — Texarkana Aluminum officially began operations with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by a large crowd from local, regional and state economic and political organizations.
Hard-hatted workers looked on as speeches were made and all were surrounded by silvery rolls of processed aluminum. The factory has been shut down for a number of years with an uncertain future.
But now, this plant, with a $460 million investment put into software and hardware upgrades, is ready to begin producing once again. It employs 150 people.
"This plant will be fully operational, come May 2020," said Calum Donnachie, chief operating officer of Texarkana Aluminum, Inc.
The plant's grand opening had Arkansas' top elected official in attendance for the occasion.
"Some have asked me why the governor of Arkansas has come to speak at the opening of a Texas plant," said Asa Hutchinson. "Well, (Texas) Gov. (Greg) Abbott and I are about partnership. We do compete a lot, but it is all about regional partnership with projects like this."
Hutchinson reflected on the classic Arkansas-Texas football game called the "1969 Shootout," which had the state governors as well as President Richard Nixon watching. Arkansas lost, 15-14.
"That was serious competition," the Arkansas governor said.
"This year, Arkansas is not doing well in football, but economically, we are doing well. In steel production, we are doing really well. Arkansas also has a history with aluminum. Lots of good things happening in Texas. Arkansas is benefiting from our partnership," he said.
Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, also took to the podium, promising not to be long.
"Blessed are the brief for they will be elected," he said to a chuckling crowd. He then decided to take on Washington, D.C., a bit.
"You hear lots of talk about minimum wage from some in the nation's capitol," he said.
"I say, don't focus on that. Focus on growing the economy. You want maximum wage, not minimum wage. The economy is not a finite pie. We can make more pie, a bigger pie. Fair trade, American taking courageous stands," he said, referring to President Donald Trump deciding to combat Chinese trade practices. "There will be short-term costs. But the benefit will be long-term. I reference Romans 13, speaking of the role of government. The state punishes evil doers and gives praise to those who do good. A good job is better than a government program."
Johnny Hsieh, president of TCI Stainless & Aluminum out of Long Beach, California, itself a part of Ta Chen Stainless Pipe & Tube out of Taiwan, said that the investment in the plant is the biggest investment in aluminum rolling that took place after the trade conflict began between the U.S. and China, and the biggest since the 232 tariff implementations.
"It is good that President Trump has decided to confront the unfair trade practices of China," he said. "However, the president has focused on steel and other matters, while neglecting aluminum. We are confident in the future of the industry and the region. We have another 800 million in U.S. dollars ready to deploy. But we need the federal government, the Department of Commerce, to pay attention to the welfare of the aluminum industry. By which, we mean fairly subsidized imports and guarding against Chinese circumvention of fair trade policy."