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Southwest Arkansas begins to attract some growth.

Growth in Southwest Arkansas has lagged behind other parts of the state, but the area is beginning to attract new industries and see some expansions.

* Arkadelphia has made a remarkable comeback after a tornado devastated the downtown area a couple of years ago.

With financial aid from the Housing and Urban Development Department, coming in the form of a 30 percent equity buydown to people who would build back in the wiped-out area, the downtown area has made a dramatic change for the better.

Work has begun on a new $1.85 million municipal complex that will open in June 2000. Already there are three new downtown restaurants, including a rebuilt drugstore put in by former Rep. Percy Malone.

Ouachita Baptist University's commitment to the downtown area is an upscale riverfront apartment complex. Southern Development has opened the Cutler Terrace Apartments in the damaged area. There will be an opening celebration Oct. 23 for the $2 million-plus project.

Henderson State University has a new Donald Reynolds Science Center and Planetarium. Out on Interstate 30, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has opened a Supercenter.

* At Nashville, Ox Bodies Inc., a manufacturer of dump truck bodies, recently announced plans to build a new facility that will hire 100. employees within the first year and as many as 150 additional employees during the second year of operation. Ox Bodies officials say all jobs will be filled locally.

The company plans to build a $7.5 million, 170,000-SF building just north of Nashville. Construction is scheduled to begin immediately and conclude in May or June 2000.

* At Hope, SMI Joist is building a new facility and is also expanding its existing plant by half. The new SMI Steel Products plant will be the first in the U.S. to manufacture cellular beams, a new concept in steel construction that makes steel more economical and efficient for floor and roof structures.

Currently, SMI Steel Products has 70 workers on two shifts. At the new 70,000-SF structure in the industrial park, three miles from the existing SMI Joist plant, there will be three shifts and 100 workers.

The current 80,000-SF plant is being expanded to 120,000 SF, and the current work force of 640 on three shifts will get another 50 workers.

* At Hot Springs, the new Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway, a four-lane, controlled-access stretch of Highway 270 south of town, is providing an impetus for development.

The largest project along the expressway is the $35 million, 350,000-SF Cornerstone Market Place. It currently has 30 tenants, including a 115,000-SF Lowe's Home Center, Books-A-Million, Office Depot, Pier 1 Imports, Goody's and Outback Steak House. A Cracker Barrel restaurant is planned. In the same area, First National Bank of Hot Springs is building a $3.3 million, 30,318-SF office building.

The biggest boon to the area, however, will be Magic Springs Thrill and Water Park, which is undergoing a $20 million renovation. Tourism remains the major industry in Garland County, but the area has recruited four industries in the past year that have added 250 jobs.

* The Camden area is also experiencing growth after a long period of stagnation. Reliance Aerospace should open in December or January. The plant, which will make fuel bladders for the military, will eventually employ 65. Raytheon Missile Systems has expanded from 18 workers to 85 in the past year. Atlantic Research, Lockheed Martin & Vaught, and Marconi Aerospace have all added jobs.

Work is scheduled to start soon south of town on Gaston's Sawmill. Other new industries include Ouachita Valley Refurbishing and the Iron Horse Paper Mill, opening Oct. 1.

* Providing the spark to Malvern's economy is a new 780-bed state prison that can be expanded to 1,600 beds. The $29 million project will begin with 225 employees.

Other new industries include Grapette International and Bulk Sak, maker of large plastic container sacks.

* Texarkana continues to anchor southwest Arkansas with a solid economy. Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. is in the process of adding a fourth shift of workers, adding 350 new jobs and bringing its total employment at the plant to around 2,000.

A major catalyst for the area's steady growth is construction of Interstate 49 north to Fort Smith. Some experts say the area's population could double in 10 years if the Interstate is completed by 2010. The border towns are the hub of a trade area with 400,000 people.

* Magnolia has experienced steady growth in its existing industries and is now actively seeking new industry. A couple of years ago, the city approved at 3/4-cent sales tax, of which 1/4 cent goes to economic development. The nonprofit Magnolia Economic Development Council was born, and it has been buying land in 80-acre chunks to develop an industrial park and get into a position to attract new plants.
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Title Annotation:includes brief articles on economic development
Comment:Southwest Arkansas begins to attract some growth.(includes brief articles on economic development)
Author:Henry, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Sep 27, 1999
Previous Article:Interstate 530 could bring millions of dollars to PB.
Next Article:Airport, new Interstate 540 keep NW Arkansas strong.

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