For more than half a century, Arkansas has been a leader in manufacturing, and that expertise continues today as the industry becomes increasingly focused on 21st century advanced manufacturing jobs including aerospace and aviation, the state’s leading export.
More than 13 percent of Arkansas’s workforce is employed in manufacturing, the second-highest percentage in the American South. The state’s labor force is predicted to grow seven percent between 2013 and 2023. Arkansas’s two-year colleges respond to the needs of companies and have helped the state create industry-specific training processes vital to the establishment and growth of Arkansas’s industries.
Aerospace/Aviation is Arkansas’s leading export, in part because the state offers a very competitive environment for aerospace and aviation companies to operate. Exports in this sector accounted for 23.76 percent of Arkansas’s total export value in 2014 ($1.6 billion). The top three destinations for aircraft/spacecraft from Arkansas were France ($403 million), China ($182 million) and the British Virgin Islands ($175 million).
And yet, we still have room for growth. In Arkansas, there is abundant available land for aerospace/aviation manufacturers.
The Arkansas Aeroplex, a multi-modal transportation facility located near Interstate 55 on the grounds of the former Eaker Air Force Base, has 1.5 million square feet of space that includes an office park, an aviation park with avionics repair benches, sheet metal shops, welding shops and painting equipment, and a distribution center. The Arkansas Aeroplex features six hangars, a test facility for jet engines, maintenance buildings with air compressors, and an 11,600-foot runway.
The Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges Aerospace Training Consortium offers aviation and aerospace programs to produce a continuous supply of aerospace/aviation workers. These programs include airframe and power plant technology, aviation maintenance technician, aviation management, aviation power plant maintenance, aviation technology, and electronics/avionics technology. In addition, Henderson State University offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in aviation in which graduates are trained to fly commercial planes, manage airports, or manage aircraft fleets. The university’s aviation department features 15 aircraft and a state-of-the-art flight simulator.
The state’s seven homegrown Fortune 500 companies are proof that Arkansas has what you need to grow your business in the 21st century global marketplace. The seven companies – Dillard’s, JB Hunt, Murphy Oil, Murphy USA, Tyson Foods, Walmart, and Windstream – represent five different industry sectors, demonstrating Arkansas’s diverse economy.
This diversity is, in part, what kept Arkansas fiscally stable during the country’s recent recession. While surrounding states struggled, Arkansas was not only able to balance its budget each year, the state also kept unemployment lower than the national average.
While the population of Arkansas is just under three million, the state offers access to a market of 103 million people within a 550-mile radius of the state. That represents 42 percent of the total U.S. population. Major market centers in the region include: Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and St. Louis.
Arkansas’s intermodal transportation network of highways, railways, air routes, waterways and pipelines provides easy access to U.S. and international markets. Major commercial airports are located in central and northwest Arkansas, and six regional airports are located throughout the state. These airports are part of a larger intermodal transportation network of highways, railways, and waterways that provide easy access to major markets in the U.S. and around the world.
Four ports are located along the Arkansas River in Fort Smith, Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pine Bluff. The Arkansas River dissects the state from the northwest to the southeast, while the Mississippi River borders the state’s eastern edge. Ports along the Mississippi River are in Osceola, West Memphis and McGehee. Many of Arkansas’s port locations have railway connections that provide a smooth transition for various modes of transportation and quick delivery.
Interstate 40 is the major east-west thoroughfare reaching from North Carolina to California that runs through Arkansas. Interstate 55 links eastern Arkansas to St. Louis and Chicago to the north and New Orleans to the south, while Interstate 30 connects Arkansas with markets to the southwest, including Texas and Mexico.
Arkansas’s railroad infrastructure includes three Class I systems: Union Pacific, BNSF Railway, and Kansas City Southern Railway. Union Pacific operates major yards in Little Rock and Pine Bluff, along with a locomotive repair facility in North Little Rock. In addition, the state has 22 smaller railroads operating over its more than 2,700 miles of track.
More than 1,600 for-hire motor carriers with interstate operations are based in Arkansas. And more than 42,000 Arkansans are employed in trucking and distribution. Among these are two of the nation’s largest trucking companies: J.B. Hunt and ABF Freight Systems. J.B. Hunt is one of the nation’s leading transportation provider and the nation’s largest publicly traded truckload carrier. ABF serves all 50 states and has international operations offering service to 250 ports in more than 130 countries. FedEx Freight East, a less-than-truckload market leader, is based in Harrison, Arkansas.
In an effort to help businesses looking to relocate to Arkansas, the Arkansas Economic Development offers two initiatives that catalog available sites: Arkansas Site Selection and Advance Arkansas Sites.
Arkansas currently has 538 buildings and 311 sites available at www.ArkansasSiteSelection.com, a collaborative effort between the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Entergy Arkansas Inc. The site features interactive maps, a database of buildings and sites, detailed and up-to-date demographics, and business data to allow users to conveniently analyze and evaluate potential sites and communities.
Companies requiring large acreage can access Advance Arkansas Sites at www.AdvanceArkansasSites.com. Advance Arkansas Sites are premium, large-acre sites that meet Arkansas’s highest standards of quality. Ready for rapid industrial development, each site features the acreage, ownership, utility, and transportation infrastructure worthy of “Advance Arkansas Sites” distinction.
Two large-acreage sites, the Little Rock Metro Mega Site and West Memphis Mega Site, are currently featured on www.AdvanceArkansasSites.com. Each location lists property information, demographics and workforce information to educate prospective businesses on the economic and environmental landscape of Arkansas. The Little Rock Metro Mega Site is located in Saline County in central Arkansas and is 2,045 acres. The West Memphis Mega Site is located in east Arkansas along the Mississippi River and is 1,420 acres. All preliminary work such as extending utilities, rail, water and sewer is complete at both sites which are “ready to go and ready to market.”
Of course Arkansas could not accomplish its success without the state’s hardworking, dedicated workforce – one that is prepared to meet your ever-developing job requirements.
The 21st century is opening new opportunities for Arkansas in the aerospace and aviation fields, and higher-education institutions have programs in place to ensure the state’s workforce can meet the needs of these opportunities.
But more importantly, one will find when ready to begin the hiring process, is that the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) works with other state agencies, offering a Career Readiness Certificate to potential employees. This helps make certain the people you interview are qualified and those you hire have the skills, or can be trained in the skills, that you need. This greatly increases your return on your training dollars and efforts.
Our project managers at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission are eager to speak with you and take you on a tour of an appropriate available site. Please call 1-800-ARKANSAS or visit www.arkansasedc.com to start your Arkansas success story.
Dassault Falcon Jet completion facility – Little Rock, Arkansas
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