From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
A couple of recent announcements in Helena-West Helena provide a perfect example of the importance of having an effective statewide economic development strategy.
First of all, Bartlo Packaging announced it would expand its operations, which means it will hire an additional 50 workers.
The plant serves the specialty chemical industry, and now has a work force of about 70 people.
The expansion calls for a $1.3 million investment and the purchase of a 105,000 square foot building, which is adjacent to its current facility.
Bartlo is moving all of its operations from New Jersey to Phillips County, and company officials say that at least 10 employees have already expressed an interest in moving here.
Bartlo has been in business for 30 years. The expansion of its Helena facility is the result of an economic development strategy that doesn’t just seek to recruit new manufacturers.
It aims to help existing businesses by providing incentives to expand in Arkansas.
For Bartlo, the incentives include Advantage Arkansas, a program that offers state income tax credits for job creation, based on the number of new employees hired as a result of the project.
Also, the state offered incentives through the Tax Back program, which provides sales tax refunds on building materials, taxable machinery, and equipment associated with the project.
In addition, the project qualified for $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds.
In a related announcement, Helena Harbor has received official notice that it qualifies for a $6.4 million grant for infrastructure.
The work includes a new earthquake-resistant water tower, which will improve fire prevention.
Also, the grant will help pay for rail spurs to improve access and transportation throughout the Harbor area.
The rail lines will support the new Helm Fertilizer Terminal Expansion, which was announced in October.
A grant from the Arkansas Waterways Commission helps pay for staging lanes that allow 18-wheelers to more efficiently load and unload fertilizer delivered by barge.
Tax incentives and grants for infrastructure are just part of the state’s overall economic development policy.
Another key element is education. Companies will only move to Arkansas, or expand their existing operations, if they can hire a work force with the necessary job skills.
It’s the job of the legislature, along with our schools and colleges, to provide training in the job skills that will be in demand in the economy of the future.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.