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Connections Count (Editorial)

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Perhaps you’ll forgive us for this late expression of thanks. It’s just that Kyle Massey’s story on Shandong Ruyi Technology Group’s textile factory planned for Forrest City reminded us of how much Arkansas has had to be thankful for in the last couple of years and of the importance of connections.

The $410 million project is expected to bring 800 jobs, making it “the largest economic development success in the Delta in recent memory,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “It is our second-largest investment from China in terms of capital, but the largest from China by the number of jobs created.”

The largest investment from China in terms of capital will be by Shandong Sun Paper Industry, which is building a $1.3 billion pulp mill in Clark County. Shandong Sun lighted on Arkansas as a location after Mark Hamer of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission ate breakfast with the Shandong Sun chairman and his daughter at a Southern Governors’ Association meeting in Hoover, Alabama, in 2010.

A relationship was formed, and, with the help of many state and local officials, the announcement of Shandong Sun’s investment in Arkansas came six years later. Six months after that announcement, in October 2016, the Suzhou Industrial Park Tianyuan Garment Co. announced it was bringing a $20 million garment plant, employing 400, to Little Rock. That company had heard about Arkansas through news coverage of a November 2015 trip to China by Hutchinson and the state’s work to land Shandong Sun.

And when in November 2015, Shandong Ruyi was looking for a U.S. site for its yarn-spinning plant, its chairman, Yafu Qiu, listened to the advice of his friend the chairman of Shandong Sun, Hongxin Li: Check out Arkansas. He did and now an empty TV plant will get new life and 800 Arkansans will get jobs.

So reach out, friends, to others. And consider having breakfast with a stranger.

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