So the hunt begins. What is the mystery project Gov. Mike Beebe hinted at in his State of the State Address today?
People are saying very little beyond the governor's remarks. Beebe's spokesman, Matt DeCample, declined to provide any other details to the Arkansas Times, saying, "Believe me, if we had more details to release, they would have been in the speech." He also declined Arkansas Business' request for more on the matter.
Meanwhile, our own Mark Carter reached to out to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He didn't get much more than the Times, but Joe Holmes did say this in an email:
It's a large project we've been working on for some time but we are not quite to a point to talk about the details or name. I can tell you it's a billion dollar plus investment and we feel positive we are close to it being announced.
Holmes also tells the Associated Press that said some of the funding for the project will come from state-backed bonds, which legislators will need to approve.
A "billion dollar plus investment." We've heard that before, specifically in AEDC's Director Grant Tennille's remarks on the Northwest Arkansas Emerging Leaders panel at the World Trade Center building in October in Rogers. Other (limited) details, as reported by The City Wire:
Tennille did not say if the development would be new or an expansion of an existing company, and he did not disclose how many jobs would be created. He did say Arkansas is competing with only one other state for the deal, and added that company officials have said they are spending considerably more time in Arkansas than the other state.
Meanwhile, a "billion dollar plus investment"! Admittedly, these numbers can be a little slippery. What constitutes an "investment," and over how long of a period is that investment made, etc.?
But for comparison, here's the announced "investment" values of some of the biggest, most-barn-burning economic development projects in Arkansas over the last few years:
- Caterpillar, 2009 - $140 million
- Mitsubishi, 2009 - $100 million*
- Nordex, 2008 - $100 million
- LM Wind Power, 2007 - $150 million
- Welspun Pipes, 2007 - $100 million
- Hino, 2004 - $160 million
- Nestlé, Millard Refrigerated Services, 2001 - $200 million
Also: When Toyota chose San Antonio for a vehicle assembly plant in 2003, that deal was worth only $800 million. The plant, with 2,000 employees, was to have capacity to build 1.65 million vehicles a year.
Here is what Beebe said in his speech, taken from the full transcript here (you can watch the full address here):
We continue to work toward bringing new jobs and investment to Arkansas, and I plan to ask your help to bring in one of the biggest projects this State has ever seen. Details on that project are still to come.
A "billion dollar plus investment." Hm.
Goes without saying that if you happen to, you know, know what this mystery project is, you can totally tell us! Drop me a line here or use our news tip line here, anonymity guaranteed.
(*That one hasn't happened. Plans suspended in 2012.)