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Jonesboro Welcomes $20 Million Risever PlantLock Icon

4 min read

A year went by from the time that Hefei Risever Machinery Co. began studying potential locations in the United States for its new machine parts plant until the October announcement that Jonesboro was its choice, and Jonesboro Unlimited sought to make the most of that time.

Risever takes its name from the English translation of a Chinese phrase, “yong yuan shang sheng,” meaning “forever rising.” It’s the goal of the family-owned company, founded in 1999, to “continue to grow and develop in the upward trend,” according to its website.

As it happens, growing and developing are goals that Risever shares with Jonesboro Unlimited, an economic development nonprofit.

Groundbreaking on the $20 million 125,000-SF facility, which will create 130 jobs, took place June 15 at the Craighead Technology Park, and Mark Young, president of Jonesboro Unlimited, thinks that landing the plant is just the start of good things. “This is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “These jobs will very much help continue to grow the Jonesboro economy.”

Risever makes parts for heavy equipment makers like Caterpillar, Volvo, Terex and Komatsu. The Jonesboro plant will be its first outside of China.

Risever General Manager Yonggang Lai told Arkansas Business last week that the company decided to locate a plant in the United States “because we intend to provide JIT (just in time) products and services for a few of our existing major customers as well as target clients which have factories in the U.S.”

In addition, he said in an email, the company is studying the long-run “comparative advantage” between products made in China versus in the U.S.

Lai said the average yearly salary at the Jonesboro plant will be $37,000. It’s expected to open in about a year.

After Risever’s siting consultant contacted the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Jonesboro learned it might be in the running, Jonesboro Unlimited “made sure we understood those key criteria that Risever was evaluating,” Young said. Those factors included:

► An industrial setting that already had all utilities in place and that would be a convenient site from which to ship the company’s finished goods. The Craighead Technology Park is just a mile and a half from Interstate 555 and less than an hour from Memphis.

► A workforce with the right kinds of skills and the existence of training capabilities to develop workers as the plant evolved.

► The overall cost of doing business.

“We made sure that as they asked questions, we communicated clearly the benefits and assets that we had as a community that would help them meet their needs,” Young said.

In addition, the consultant interviewed businesses operating in the area, Young said, asking questions such as “what’s it like to do business in Jonesboro, talk about the quality of the workforce, talk about turnover rate, all the factors that are important to any employer.

“And so they did a great job of, through that process, talking to the people who are here, who know it firsthand that Jonesboro is a great place to do business.”

State and local players sweetened the deal. The Jonesboro Economic Development Commission, which owns the 1,500-acre technology park off of Highland Drive, is giving 27.5 acres to Risever, and Jonesboro Unlimited committed $50,000 to prepare the site.

The Risever project also qualified for state incentives, including a $1 million grant from the governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund.

Ultimately, Lai said, Risever chose Jonesboro because of its “cost competitive” business environment and proximity to Risever’s customers.

The Risever announcement was just one of several involving Chinese investment in Arkansas in the last couple of years, including Sun Bio Materials Co.’s $1.3 billion pulp mill project south of Arkadelphia, Shandong Ruyi Technology Group’s $410 million yarn factory in Forrest City and Suzhou Tianyuan’s $20 million clothing project in Little Rock.

Asked what other Arkansas cities could do to attract Chinese firms, Lai suggested sharing Chinese manufacturers’ success stories in the state and inviting representatives from Chinese industrial associations to visit Arkansas.

Jonesboro beat out 69 other cities in five states to land Risever. Young hopes relationships developed during the selection process will bring future rewards. “You do get an opportunity for people to know much more about your community, much more about the business environment, and those are individuals who will have opportunities in the future to tell others about their experience in our community.”

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