By Joel Phelps
In one of the “fastest economic development projects” the state has worked on, Hostess Brands announced Monday morning its intentions to open a production and manufacturing plant in Clark County, four months after Project “Cupcake” was first mentioned in public.
Jack Thomas, senior project manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, was among several who spoke to a crowded board room at Fairfield Inn & Suites. He said the initial contact with Hostess was made on Nov. 4 and that local officials worked at “lightning speed” to secure the project in the former site of Danfoss, located in the Clark County Industrial Park.
The snack company said in a press release that the plant would create 150 local jobs over the next three years.
One of the major factors in choosing Clark County over the four other locations it considered was the $2 million incentives package the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County pledged in November to help with starting the operation, Kevin Jester, EDCCC chair, later told The Arkadelphian. Asked what the taxpayers’ share would fund, Jester said it would pay for infrastructure improvements and equipment purchases. “We will either pay vendors directly for work they do, or we will reimburse for equipment purchases based on receipts,” he said.
The average salary at Hostess will be an hourly wage of $23.84, Jester said.
Jester said a clawback clause is in place to guarantee Hostess holds up its end of the deal. “If they don’t produce the number of jobs they say they will, there’s a clawback,” he said.
Jester was among those who spoke during Monday’s press conference, applauding the voters for their support in last summer’s special election to continue the tax. “You and us have worked toward a moment like this for a long time,” he told a crowd of more than 70 local leaders. “But mostly you” for making the decision to continue the tax.
“It’s exciting to see that Hostess recognized something in this county,” Jester continued. “It wasn’t simply about dollars and cents, but they recognized that there was some value here, that people were willing and able and ready to be a workforce in this place, that there is quality of living here. We’re excited they’re going to be a part of that.”