Top 10 2007: Port of Little Rock Scores

With manufacturing in decline across the nation and the state stinging from the loss of a couple of "super projects" to neighboring states, 2007 saw the Little Rock Port Authority buck the trend.

It turned out to be one of the best years ever at the Port of Little Rock, with three new major tenants announcing they would invest close to $300 million and add nearly 1,800 jobs in time.

An effort to land a pipe maker that began with a trip to India in January bore fruit in June when Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd. of Mumbai said it would build a $100 million manufacturing facility on 740 acres next to the Little Rock Port Authority.

Once completed, the plant will be capable of producing 300,000 net tons of tubular steel pipes annually for use in the oil and gas industry. The company will hire about 300 workers and hopes to begin production this spring.

Then, in July, LM Glasfiber of Denmark said it would open a new plant at the Little Rock Port to make fiberglass wind turbine blades.

The company said the $150 million, 700,000-SF plant would begin operations in the first quarter of 2008 and employ more than 1,000 within five years. The company also will locate its North American corporate headquarters in Little Rock.

Economic development officials had worked to land the plant for quite some time. The state Legislature approved a specific incentives measure to provide a major income tax break for a windmill blade manufacturer with the condition that the company commit to a minimum $150 million investment and employ 500 to 1,000 people over time.

In September, Sage V Foods of Los Angeles said it would locate an individually quick-frozen rice plant in a new 100,000-SF plant at the port.

The $20 million plant will employ between 60 to 100 people at first, with a goal of employing about 200 within two to three years. The company plans to be up and running before December 2008.

In addition to the larger announcements, Boyd Metals of Fort Smith, a full-line metals service center, bought a 10-acre site at the Little Rock Port where it will build a 45,000-SF metals distribution facility.

Any manufacturing jobs are welcome in Arkansas these days. The number of residents working in manufacturing dropped another 5,000 in the first 10 months of the year, from 193,700 in January to 188,700 in October.

Also see:

LM Glasfiber Begins Work on $150 Million Plant
Welspun Land May Be Home to Ancient Burial Grounds 

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