The Ones That Got Away: Big Projects That Slipped Past Arkansas

Arkansas has experienced some notable failures in its efforts to attract industry to the state. Among them:

• The 2007 decision by Toyota Motor Corp. to reject $200 million in incentives offered by the state and locate its $1.3 billion SUV plant in Tupelo, Miss. That state offered Toyota a $296 million deal. In addition, according to Beebe, Toyota expressed concerns over air quality in Marion, the proposed Arkansas site.

• ThyssenKrupp’s choice in 2007 of Alabama over Arkansas as the location of its $5 billion plant, which opened in 2010 and was the biggest steel mill built in the U.S. in 40 years. That plant, however, is now up for sale.

• Correnti’s 2005 rejection of Arkansas as the site of a $650 million mini-mill in favor of Lowndes County, Miss. That plant, now owned by Severstal, opened in 2007 and provides jobs to about 700.

• Toyota’s decision in 2003 to locate a $750 million truck plant in San Antonio. Arkansas economic development officials used that disappointment to bolster their argument for Amendment 82, approved by voters in 2004. The amendment, which would be used for the first time if the General Assembly approves of the Big River steel mill deal, allows the state to use up to 5 percent of general revenue for bonds to fund “super economic development projects.”

• The granddaddy of them all, a business that started here and whose departure still gives Arkansas economic developers nightmares, is FedEx Corp., which Little Rock lost to Memphis in the 1970s.