Port Hits Stride After Years of Work

by John Henry  on Monday, Aug. 20, 2007 12:00 am  

"She refuses to lose," Maulden said. "She's very skilled in international relationships."

"Gov. Beebe is involved in the recruitment process early on," Maulden said, "and that has helped. He is very accessible."

Maulden and Chesshir also credit the governor's Quick-Action Closing Fund, which comes from $50 million in the General Improvement Fund and is specifically directed for economic development. The money gives the state the ability to negotiate for work force training, capital investments and other projects instead of having to wait for legislative approval that could be slow and cause a business seeking to relocate to look elsewhere.

Paul Latture, executive director of the Port Authority, likewise credits Haley and her staff at AEDC. But he also acknowledges the work of the port authority's board of directors, the Little Rock chamber and Joey Dean, vice president of economic development for the chamber and executive director of the Metro Little Rock Alliance, along with Entergy's Teamwork Arkansas.

Welspun said it is building its $100 million steel pipe manufacturing facility at Little Rock to cut shipping costs and serve more projects in this part of the world, where about 60 percent of its exports from India were heading anyway.

The plant will employ about 300 initially and produce about 300,000 tons of material annually. A coating facility expects to be online by March 2008, with the pipe-manufacturing unit up and running by September 2008.

Latture said the company bought 741 acres of private property next to the Port Authority land with further expansion plans in mind down the road. The site will be annexed to the city and placed under the governance of the Port Authority.

LM Glasfiber said it will employ 500 in the fall and eventually more than 1,000 at its $150 million plant. The maker of giant fiberglass blades for power-generating wind turbines wants to break ground in September.

LM Glasfiber said it chose the port site for the project because of its easy access to interstate highways, rail lines and the river. The smallest blades the company makes are 123 feet long. The largest blades reach more than 200 feet.

A recent report released by the American Wind Energy Association predicts strong growth in the wind energy industry. AWEA said the United States is on track to add well over 3,000 megawatts to the nation's power-generating capacity in 2007.

This bullish performance by the industry is tempered, however, by supply chain shortages and policy uncertainty. "Wind power developers report that turbine availability is a limiting factor - in other words, there is demand for even more wind energy but companies can't build more projects because there aren't enough new wind turbines to buy," the report said. "And, in turn, there aren't enough manufacturing facilities for turbines and turbine parts in the country because the U.S. government's intermittent policy toward renewables has discouraged companies from investing in manufacturing facilities."

It would seem that LM Glasfiber will hit the market at the right time to grow.



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