Czech gun-maker CZ-USA plans a $90 million gun manufacturing operation and North American headquarters that will employ 565 people at the Little Rock Port, the governor and company officials announced Tuesday.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission; U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark.; Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde; and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. made the announcement at a news conference in the Governor's Conference Room at the state Capitol.
CZ-USA is the U.S. affiliate of Czech firearms manufacturer ÄŒeská zbrojovka a.s. Uherský Brod. It makes handguns, rifles, shotguns and suppressors, including handguns under the Dan Wesson brand.
The company aims to build a new manufacturing facility on 73 acres at the Port of Little Rock, where workers will make parts, assemble weapons and process orders. In a news release, the company said it would implement a two-phase approach to create hundreds of jobs over a six-year period.
Hutchinson said Tuesday that the new jobs will pay more than $22 per hour. Construction will begin "immediately," with start-up planned for March 2020.
CZ-USA Chairman Bogdan Heczko said the new facility marks a "new chapter for our company."
"As CZ looked to increase our presence in North America, it engaged in a multi-state search for the ideal location," Heczko said. "The Arkansas workforce, culture, business climate and industry support cleared the way for us to choose Little Rock as our new home."
The company already has an office in Kansas City, Missouri, that employs 70 and functions as a warehouse and distribution site and performs small assembly, sales and marketing functions.
Heczko said the company considered expanding there first but was introduced to Arkansas by the governor and economic development leaders attending the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.
Hutchinson said officials had breakfast with the company's executives during the trade show.
"It was at that breakfast that we got things moving. We really saw eye to eye, and I think they understood then the interest that Arkansas had, the commitment that we have, the relationship that you can have with our state," Hutchinson said. "From that meeting grew some very intense negotiations and competition and discussions, but through all of that and through many personal visits to our state, CZ-USA chose Arkansas."
Heczko said the selection process took more than a year and that, at first, Arkansas wasn't a serious contender. But the executives' first visit to the state was a game-changer.
"After the first visit here, we were really astonished," he said. "We were met with a warm welcome. The big team was really closely cooperating. The big team was really dedicated and involved in the process. We were very surprised. This visit changed our mind."
Preston said Arkansas is providing an array of incentives for the project, including a forgivable loan, a grant from the governor's Quick Action Closing Fund for infrastructure and money for employee training.
The project also qualifies for AEDC's "Create Rebate," an annual cash rebate based on the number of jobs at the plant, and "Tax Back," which reimburses the company for sales taxes it pays on building materials, machinery and equipment associated with the project.
AEDC provided a breakdown of jobs, capital investment and incentives by project phases:
- 357 jobs plus a total capital investment of $60 million
- $11 million loan
- $4 million infrastructure grant
- $1.25 million for training assistance
- Create Rebate
- Tax Back
- 208 jobs plus a total capital investment of $30 million
- $7 million loan
- $750,000 for training assistance
- Create Rebate
- Tax Back
The city of Little Rock and Pulaski County are providing port acreage to the company free of charge, provided it creates the 565 jobs. The city and county are also spending about $4.9 million to make a road there appropriate for industrial use. That infrastructure will be beneficial to CZ-USA and "open up other property" in the area for future industrial economic development project, according to Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber.
"All of that is being finalized, so those numbers could move a little bit," Chesshir told Arkansas Business. "All of this has been put together in the last month. There's some additional funds we're actually working to secure that would become part of that $4.9 million for the full-road buildout."
The announcement represents the first direct foreign investment in Arkansas from the Czech Republic. The factory will be the first in North America for the company, which exports to more than 90 countries and has 2,000 employees. CZ-USA said it is already seeking applicants for jobs at the plant at LittleRockChamber.com/cz.
The announcement is marks an expansion of Arkansas firearms industry. Arkansas is already home to firearms operations by companies including SIG Sauer, Remington, Walther Arms, Umarex USA and Daisy Outdoor Products.
Watch Video of the Announcement