By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian
CLARK COUNTY INDUSTRIAL PARK — Although unveiling the enormous Hostess Brands signs at its new facility didn’t go as planned (as seen in the video below), the company’s chief executive officer delivered a message of hope and encouragement to the citizens of Clark County and southwestern Arkansas.
About 100 business executives and community leaders were in attendance Thursday morning to hear an announcement from Hostess Brands CEO Andy Callahan. Earlier this year the company pledged a $100 million investment into revamping the old Danfoss building into what will become a confectionery. The Arkadelphia bakery is said to add at least 150 jobs to the area within the next three years.
The company is in its 10th consecutive quarter of at least 9% growth, and the Gum Springs facility is a “tangible benefit of that growth,” Darryl Riley, the company’s chief sustainability officer, said in his introduction remarks.
What attracted Hostess to Arkadelphia?
In its negotiations with the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance before making the decision to locate in Clark County, Hostess conducted an analysis to see if local resources met the company’s needs.
“We looked at the [Union Pacific] rail system, and it was good,” Callahan said. “We looked at the access to our customer base — Walmart and all of them in our distribution centers — and it was good. But what really made the difference was the people, the community, the support of Arkansas.” The Arkadelphia bakery is the company’s largest investment under Callahan’s leadership, and it’s “not a speculative investment,” he said. “We’re bringing our core business to Arkadelphia, and we’re counting on a high quality workforce and the support around here to keep the standards of quality and safety that we’ve been known to develop along the way.”
Last year, Forbes named Hostess as one of the top mid-sized American companies to work for, and among the best employers for veterans, Callahan noted, adding the company will treat the local expansion the same. “We are going to treat our employees well, and keep them safe, and they’re going to produce some of the finest quality food products in the industry,” he said.
State leaders congratulate Arkadelphia
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was among the guest speakers. He congratulated Arkadelphia and Clark County’s leadership for attracting Hostess. “Your resources in creating jobs and attracting companies like this — and the leadership of Arkadelphia — are to be recognized across the state,” Hutchinson said. “From the state’s perspective, it means a lot to have an iconic national brand like Hostess coming to our state.”
Mike Preston, the state’s Secretary of Commerce, doted on the community for its commitment to economic development. “Believe it or not, we don’t always find that in every community in the state,” Preston said. Addressing the Hostess executives, Preston said, “You’re in the heart of Arkansas, but you’re in the heart of the country right here in Arkadelphia, with access to rails and the interstate system, you can go anywhere in the country you need to.”
Voters to thank for Hostess
Hostess will be the recipient of a $2 million incentives package approved by the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County, a 15-member panel that oversees the 1/2-cent, voter-approved sales tax collected for the purpose of recruiting and retaining industry.
Thursday was a “day to celebrate” a win for both voters and the recruiting organizations, said Kevin Jester, chairman of the EDCCC. Jester thanked the voters who have continued to support the sales tax, which was first passed in 2007 and was passed twice more since then. “The fruit of that action has played a significant role in us being here today,” Jester said. Not only does the tax provide a pool of incentive, but it also allows a full-time staff whose everyday job is to handle economic development, he added.
Arkadelphia City Manager Gary Brinkley was thankful for a company that will provide good wages to local citizens. “We’re excited about your commitment to the community, about paying sustainable wages,” Brinkley said. “You’re going to change the trajectory of people’s lives in Arkadelphia and Clark County because they’re going to earn sustainable wages.”
Clark County Judge Troy Tucker called the recruitment of Hostess a “team effort” between city, county and business leaders. “We do everything we can to promote Clark County and Arkadelphia,” he said. “Great things are going to happen for Hostess, and great things are going to happen for Clark County.”