LITTLE ROCK – Two strengths of Arkansas manufacturing are in the aviation and defense industries.
Both sectors will become even stronger, thanks to a commitment recently announced by Lockheed Martin and Airbus.
Executives of the two companies announced that western Arkansas would be the location of a new plant to manufacture the LMXT strategic tanker boom refueling system for the U.S. Air Force.
The system will install the most up-to-date technology on airplanes with large tanks of jet fuel that is siphoned through a boom into other Air Force jets. The refueling is done in midair.
An exact location was not announced, but the facility will hire 60 to 100 people.
Lockheed Martin has had a manufacturing plant in Camden since 1978. It employs 1,030 people at its Camden Operations plant which is a manufacturing and final assembly facility. It also has testing and storage facilities.
The LMXT aerial refueling system represents the first time Airbus has opened a manufacturing facility in Arkansas.
Aerospace and defense are thriving industries in Arkansas. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission lists these notable aerospace manufacturing companies in the state: Dassault Falcon Jet, which established its largest facility in central Arkansas, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and General Dynamics.
The Air Force chose Ebbing Air National Guard in Fort Smith as the location for an F-35 Lightning II training center for foreign military sales. Its estimated economic impact in Arkansas is about $1 billion a year.
Also in the past couple of years, other companies such as SGL Carbon, Radius Aerospace, CoorsTek, and Aerojet Rocketdyne have expanded facilities in Arkansas.
Aerospace and defense companies employ more than 14,000 people, whose average wages were $62,875 in 2017, according to the AEDC.
Part of the growth in aviation jobs is due to national and international business trends, but state government has done its part to take advantage of those trends. One effort is to strengthen education standards in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math.
Two-year colleges and four-year universities are offering a wider variety of training programs that equip graduates with the job skills most in demand by aerospace facilities.
Airbus has an extensive presence across the southeastern part of the United States, with locations in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida where aerial refueling systems are built for the Air Force. Military veterans make up 30 percent of the workforce.
The announcement of the Arkansas facility follows an expansion by Lockheed Martin and Airbus in Alabama and Georgia.
State government collected a surprising amount of tax revenue in April. Net available revenue was 44 percent greater than in April of last year.
For the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, net available revenue is up 19 percent over last year. That is $988 million more than budget forecasters had predicted.
The three major sources of state revenue are sales taxes, individual income taxes and corporate income taxes.