SIG Sauer Inc. of Newington, New Hampshire, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday celebrated the company’s plant in Jacksonville, which has added more than 100 jobs since opening two years ago.
The company makes pistol and rifle ammunition, component brass and night sights at the 70,000-SF plant at 1809 Swift Drive. When it began operations it employed 50 people. Its payroll is now at 160.
The company moved the plant from its Elite Performance Ammunition manufacturing operation from Eubank, Kentucky, to Jacksonville. It was among the governor’s first economic development announcements. Hutchinson said the first economic development call he made as governor was to Sig Sauer CEO Ron Cohen.
“[On Hutchinson’s] inauguration day, he calls me, and I’ve never spoken to a governor before,” Cohen said at the ribbon cutting on Tuesday. “He says, ‘Hi, I’m Asa.’ ‘Who’s that?’ ‘I’m the governor of the great state of Arkansas and I want you to come to Arkansas.’ When you get a phone call like that, you don’t say no.
“People tell me that business is just business. You know what? Not at SIG. Business, for me, is personal,” he continued. “There’s no such thing as just business. I don’t tell an employee it’s just business. It’s the lives of employees. Everything’s personal to me, and to SIG, and what the governor has indicated is that it’s personal to him … The relationships we’ve built here are personal.”
Cohen also said he didn’t expect the Jacksonville plant to grow like it has, and added, “We already have a problem, governor, this building is too small.”
Hutchinson said that the company secured a big military contract after moving the plant to Arkansas.
“It is about a relationship. That relationship started with a phone call, and some of you are in sales, and you know what cold sales calls are. You never know what kind of response you’re going to get,” the governor said. “And Ron wasn’t as easy as he pretended he was …It was like, ‘You’re from what state?’ I said, ‘You ever thought about doing business in Arkansas?’ ‘No, we haven’t.’ I said, ‘Well, let me make the case.’ And he listened very politely, and he was very, very genuine and interested. But it really was a year later we made the announcement.”
Hutchinson said SIG would not be growing in Arkansas without its workforce and called Cohen an “ambassador for the state.”
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., spoke briefly too. He praised the governor and Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, for putting together a strategic plan to recruit military contractors like SIG Sauer to Arkansas.
SIG Sauer renovated an existing plant for its Jacksonville facility. The project received three incentives: $800,000 from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, the Advantage Arkansas income tax credit that is based on the payroll of new jobs and the Tax Back incentive.
The $800,000 was to go toward infrastructure and equipment needed to get the building ready. The income tax credit is 1 percent of the payroll, and the Tax Back program reimburses the company for sales taxes it pays on building materials, machinery and equipment associated with the project.