By Joel Phelps | The Arkadelphian
AMITY — A site that until in recent months had been an outdoor flea market will return once again to a sawmill. Come the end of 2022, Caddo River Wood Products will operate as a mill at the former site of Amity Trade Days. The limited liability company will likely be the recipient of a $125,000 incentives package from the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County following a unanimous vote Tuesday to help fund the project.
According to J.L. Griffin, outgoing CEO of the Arkadelphia Alliance, Caddo River Wood Products LLC will be a hardwood sawmill that produces cross-ties, as well as first- and second-grade rough-sawn lumber and even firewood at the site that once housed Bean Lumber Co.
The mill will employ 15 people with an average hourly wage of $19 during the first phase of operation, with plans to expand. The company has a 20-year lease on the 54-acre site, with an option to purchase. The plant is expected to be operating by mid-September, Griffin told the EDCCC.
Of the $4.5 million in private funds already raised for the project, the company included proof of $2 million in expenditures on its application to receive public funds. Most of that $2 million, Griffin said, was spent on equipment.
“I think this project will really turn into something other than what we’re seeing here,” he told the 15-member panel. “They have expectations to hire 50 [employees] in one to two years.” The project manager, he added, was instrumental in the launching of the Glenwood-based Resolute Forest Products which hires about 150 workers.
The EDCCC unanimously approved Griffin’s recommendation. Following Tuesday’s vote, a memorandum of understanding between both parties will be drafted to ensure the mill fulfills its obligations as they pertain to the incentives package.
Prior to the vote, Griffin noted that Caddo River Wood Products was committed to the Amity project regardless of receiving an incentives package, and added he was “excited” that the tax funds would benefit the Amity area of Clark County.
Veolia plans major expansion
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to make a local appearance sometime in October to visit Veolia North America’s Gum Springs plant, Griffin told the board.
The company is expected to invest $400 million into an expansion that includes a new facility and about 70 additional jobs.
Griffin said some of the France-based company’s top executives will be in attendance at the announcement.
In other business, the EDCCC unanimously approved to deed up to 300 acres of its Super Site, located west of US Highway 67 across from the Clark County Industrial Park, to Project “Teal” as incentive for its commitment to locate in Clark County.
Griffin said he has been in talks with representatives from the unnamed company for “several months” and pointed out they want ownership of a portion of the 1,000-acre super site prior to building a “large manufacturing facility” there. Griffin said land and guarantee of rail access are the key factors in attracting “Teal” to Clark County.
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“We’ve learned to always keep our guard up and not count our chickens too early,” EDCCC president Kevin Jester said referring to past projects that never came to fruition. “This project continues to progress.”
Though it could take up to three years before the facility would be built, Griffin said a commitment to the state and local economic development commissions should take less than half a year. An MOU between the EDCCC and “Teal” will include a 120-day timeframe for that commitment.
The board also approved a $2,000 incentives package for B&R Enterprise, a wood pallet manufacturer on Highway 51 near Joan. That company, it was noted, currently has two employees with plans to add a third.
I thought this was it, but I didn’t wanna say anything until they officially announced. I live just down the road from the saw mill and I’m happy it’ll open back up and create a few jobs. 15 ain’t much, but it’s only $8,333.33 per job from the taxpayers, which is below my rule of $10k. If they end up hiring 50 people with no extra EDCCC money, it’ll only be $2,500 per job. Sounds like a good investment thus far!
We still have to keep up the pressure, though. They could just scrap this after the election, lower the number of jobs like Hostess did, etc, because the guidelines ordinance the Quorum Court passed is exceptionally weak. I do wonder why they chose to announce it now, a little over 2 months before election day and after the Liberals already lost a seat in District 11… but I’ll abstain from any conspiracy theories for now. Let’s just be happy about some progress happening!
Still waiting for tax cuts, tho. Bidenflation was 9.1% in June and 8.5% in July!