Business

Hostess inks agreement with EDCCC

By Joel Phelps
The Arkadelphian

Hostess Brands is now contractually obligated to create at least 150 jobs in Clark County.

In a Tuesday meeting of the county’s Economic Development Corp., board members gave their approval of an agreement to provide Hostess with $2 million from a 1/2-cent sales tax collected for the purpose of creating jobs in Clark County. The Kansas-based company in March pledged its intent to repurpose the old Danfoss facility in the Clark County Industrial Park.

Eric Hughes, vice-chair of the EDCCC, questioned the number of jobs agreed upon. The original number the board was given was 170 jobs. “I’m seeing this [150 jobs] for the first time,” Hughes said. “Is this a typo?” CEO J.L. Griffin said his recommendation to the board then was to approve $1.3 million, but that the EDCCC opted for another $250,000.

Griffin said that at one time the figure was 170 jobs, and the 150 jobs was later discussed. “I think right now Hostess doesn’t know for sure exactly how many full time employees” will be hired within the next three years, Griffin said. “They talked about maybe adding something else in a year or two.”

Board member Lori Ross said the language in the agreement should read “at least” rather than the “approximately” 150 jobs originally in the agreement. It was agreed to make that change.

The Gum Springs facility will be one of six Hostess factories in the U.S. The local operation will produce “every variety” of donuts the company makes: powdered, chocolate, glazed, specialty and seasonal variations.

Matt Hall, a human resources representative for the company, was present at Tuesday’s meeting to give updates on the Gum Springs facility. Hall said the operation is “on track” to crank up its line in 2023, with a majority of its demolition scheduled for July. From there, Hostess will begin the process of filling half the building with its own equipment.

Hall said the Gum Springs facility will be the company’s most energy efficient line, and will provide “good wages across the board.” The average wage for workers at the local operation will be $23.84, according to Hostess.

A plant director has been hired and will be relocating to Clark County from North Carolina, Hall said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is slated to visit the site in late August.

Categories: Business

1 reply »

  1. I’m happy they changed the language to “at least” instead of “approximately” 150 jobs, but I still question why they let Hostess lower it from 170 in the first place. In my opinion, it should be $10k per job, or 200 jobs in total. The current figure is $13,333.33 per job. Our current, weak EDCCC doesn’t even have the willpower to negotiate them back up to the figure they originally promised…

    I do think it’s good the average wage will be $23.84/hr, but what’s stopping them from lowering that figure? Has that been addressed yet? I certainly hope so! BTW, since it’s an average and not a median, it’s possible that a majority of the workers will be paid less if only a handful are paid more (which is why I prefer the term “median” be used).

    I’d also like them to give us a minimum wage figure, so we know how much those 150 people are guaranteed to be paid. Currently, we just have to assume it’ll be the state minimum wage of $11/hr, but I’d be happier if it was higher than that.

    Regardless, I hope the EDCCC invests in rural parts of Clark County as well, including Amity and Alpine (which I’m running to represent on the Quorum Court, although Alpine was cracked into two districts). In my opinion, the guidelines should require funds be distributed in roughly equal proportions in every JP district (which are supposed to have near-equal populations, but gerrymandering is a gripe for another time).

    Or perhaps the EDCCC could divide the county into economic development zones approved by the voters? There’s certainly a way to resolve this issue if we come together and talk about it in a bipartisan manner.

    I believe they’re allowing small businesses to receive money now, which I really hope they do, because small businesses are the backbone of our economy and really need the help right now. If I win my election for Justice of the Peace, I hope we can pass a new guidelines ordinance to make sure most — or at least a large portion — of the money goes to small businesses.

    I do want to thank the Economic Development Corporation for holding Hostess accountable and changing this provision.

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