Chinese Firm Agrees to Put Garment Plant in Little Rock, Employ 400

Chinese Firm Agrees to Put Garment Plant in Little Rock, Employ 400
Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs a memoradum of understanding with Suzhou Industrial Park Tianyuan Garment Co. in China. The company plans to invest $20 million in a Little Rock plant that will employ 400 people. (Arkansas Governor's Office)

A Chinese company that makes clothing for Adidas and other brands has agreed to put a garment plant in Little Rock, investing $20 million and employing 400 people, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday.

The governor made the announcement via FaceTime from China, where he's wrapping up a six-day trade mission to recruit business to the state and lobby for Arkansas agricultural exports

Among his stops: Suzhou, a city in China's Jiangsu Province, where he and Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston signed a memorandum of understanding with the Suzhou Industrial Park Tianyuan Garment Co.

The company makes casual and sportswear for brands including Reebok and Armani. It makes 10 million articles of clothing per year and supplies 90 percent of garments under the Adidas brand, according to the governor's office.

Per the MOU, Tianyuan agrees to put a plant at an unnamed site in Little Rock, hire 400 full-time employees at an average wage of $14 per hour within 4 years of the start of the operation, and invest $20 million to buy a building, equip the plant and make capital improvements.

"What's fascinating is, is these are higher paying jobs in terms of the garment industry; it is more highly technical, including robotics," Hutchinson said. "And so it will be interesting to us to watch how the garment industry unfolds in the coming years and how Arkansas can participate in that."

Preston said the investment marks the first by a Chinese-owned garment manufacturer in the United States.

"We're first," he said. "We're proud to be blazing that trail and to have them in our state."

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is offering the following incentives:

  • Five years of its Create Rebate program, a benefit of about $1.6 million.
  • Tax Back Program, a benefit of about $134,000.
  • A $1 million Infrastructure Assistance Grant for building improvements and equipment at the site.
  • $500,000 for worker training.
  • A letter of support for Tianyuan's applications for 20 work visas for its employees.
  • Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement with Little Rock and Pulaski County to abate up to 65 percent of property taxes.

Preston said the AEDC and the governor's office have been working with Tianyuan since earlier this year, when company representatives visited the state and toured prospective sites for the plant. He said AEDC will continue to work with Tianyuan as it settles on a specific site in Little Rock.

Hutchinson and Preston indicated other Chinese garment firms might consider Arkansas as a prospect for expansion. Speaking broadly, Hutchinson said one of the Chinese government's priorities is overseas investment, a "significant change" from even six years ago. That gives the state an opportunity to attract more business from the country, he said.

"One significant fact that we see here, is that while in previous decades we have lost manufacturing — certainly to Mexico, we've lost manufacturing to China in previous decades — but now we see that same manufacturing wanting to return to the United States of America," he said. "And nothing can illustrate that more than the garment industry …"

Preston said Chinese firms are seeking access to the North American market, and Arkansas is a good fit for companies for several reasons.

"It makes sense for Arkansas as we're strategically located between Canada and Mexico and within one day's drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population," he said. "Our access to the Mississippi River, great rail infrastructure and highway infrastructure make Arkansas a desired destination for companies in China."

Video of the Governor's Announcement

While in China, Hutchinson and Preston also met with the chairman of Shandong Sun Paper Industry JSC Ltd., which earlier this year announced plans to build a $1.3 billion paper mill that will employ 250 people in Clark County.

Hutchinson said the company is continuing to move ahead with its plans. He said the company hopes to have an air permit application to Arkansas regulators by the end of the year.