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Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance Meets at Aeroplex, Eyes Economic Growth

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Members of The Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance gathered at the Arkansas Aeroplex and Arkansas Northeastern College on Wednesday to hear aerospace and economic updates from county economic development and workforce leaders.

The event is the first-ever Aerospace Alliance meeting held in northeast Arkansas.

Among those who presented were Barrett Harrison, executive director of the Blytheville Gosnell Regional Airport Authority; Clif Chitwood, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation; Chris Heigle, president of Arkansas Northeastern College; and Liz Smith, executive director of the Mississippi County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Located on 3,500 acres in Mississippi County, and sitting just five miles from the Mississippi River off Interstate 55, the Arkansas Aeroplex is home to 40 commercial businesses, including Aviation Repair Technologies (ART), a member of the Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance.

The Aeroplex, formerly Eaker Air Force Base, features an 11,600-foot-long, 300-foot-wide runway and is the designated site of the National Cold War Center, scheduled to open in 2027.

Congress recently approved Mississippi County for $2 million in funding for further clean-up efforts at the Arkansas Aeroplex. Last year $1 million was invested in runway improvements at the facility.

“We are laser-focused on growing the aerospace and defense industry in Arkansas and promoting the members we have across the state, including those located in Mississippi County, Aviation Repair Technologies (ART) and the Arkansas Aeroplex,” Chad Causey, executive director of the Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance, said in a press release. “We are appreciative of the invitation to come to the Aeroplex and explore the growth potential that exists here for the industry and our state.”

Aerospace and defense products are the state’s top exports, worth nearly $1.5 billion annually. More than 10,000 Arkansans work in aerospace and defense jobs at approximately 200 companies across the state.

Alliance members who attended Wednesday’s meeting included representatives from Galley Support Innovation, Modern Chemical, Dassault Falcon Jet, Power Technology, Galactic Holdings, Cromwell Architects Engineers and the Forge Institute.

Mississippi County has experienced significant economic growth over the past few years, bolstered by key investments in its steel industry. Since the implementation of a half-cent economic development sales tax in 2003, the county has generated $8 billion in capital investment, creating 8,000 new jobs.

“We have a great economic development story to tell in Mississippi County and are appreciative of the Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance members for joining us today at the Arkansas Aeroplex,” Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson said in the release. “Aerospace and defense is an important part of our state’s economy and represents a tremendous growth opportunity for Mississippi County, which is already the top steel producing county in the United States.”

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