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What's in a name? AIDC says 'economic.' State's recruiting department becomes AEDC on July 1.

State's Recruiting Department Becomes AEDC on July 1

Effective July 1 the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission will no longer carry the "AIDC" tag.

It will be "AEDC" - with "Economic" in place of "Industrial."

In a process that's been under way about a year, the state's leading business recruiting arm decided a name change was in order to better illustrate its broader role and mission. The change required legislation in the General Assembly, and what started out as House Bill 1521 - changing Arkansas' code throughout from AIDC to AEDC - became law as Act 540 on March 18.

"When the agency was created 40 years ago, our work was primarily manufacturing-driven. That's no longer true," says Kay Stebbins, AIDC's director of information services. "We work with service-sector companies as well.

"We did some research among other states' agencies, and Arkansas' was the only state economic development agency that had the word 'Industrial' in its name of all the 50 states."

About a year ago, the AIDC completed a targeted industry study that recommended seven categories best suited for Arkansas' recruitment efforts, Stebbins says. Two of those were service-sector related.

"That was really sort of the definitive point at which we knew that our name probably wasn't appropriate to the broader picture of what we do now," she says.

Naturally, there are some costs with a name change, but most will involve reprinting stationery and business cards. Stebbins says the costs will be minor.

"Because we had been considering it for some time, we have managed to deplete supplies of a lot of routine things," she says. "There are some things we are out of right now and we're just sort of doing without until July 1 so that we can limit the cost of the name change.

"There was no cost in the research and planning for it. The only cost will be in printing some materials. We're working right now investigating what needs to be reprinted, what sort of quantities we have and the most cost-effective way to do that. In some cases it may involve printing a sticker to go over the name until we can use those supplies up."

Industry Recognition

Not that industry will no longer get its due with the AIDC's name change. In fact, the AIDC has a first-time project next month that will bring recognition to the state's industries.

May will be "Arkansas Industries Month," and later this month Gov. Mike Huckabee will issue a proclamation kicking off the endeavor.

"The purpose is to recognize the contributions of our state's manufacturing and service-sector businesses and to salute the more than 250,000 employees of those businesses," Stebbins says. "It's the first time we've done this sort of awareness program.

"It is designed to generate awareness among people throughout the state of the role that these businesses play in the state's economy and the importance of the businesses and their employees."

The AIDC is working with communities statewide in the planning of various activities and celebrations. The plans will vary from town to town, Stebbins says, but most probably will include some type of luncheon, a fish fry or a roundtable discussion with a city's business and industry leaders interacting with state officials to discuss needs, concerns and successes.

"In most cases, they will have an AIDC staff member or commission member attend and speak at those events," Stebbins says. "Gov. Huckabee is also doing a lot of public awareness work during the month, including his radio address and incorporating Arkansas Industries messages in many of his speaking engagements throughout the month."

The AIDC will mail out lapel buttons to 250,000 people across the state. The buttons include the theme line of the month - "You're What Makes Arkansas" - and Stebbins says they will have value. For example, Wendy's Hamburgers outlets will offer a free Frosty with the purchase of a combo meal to anyone showing the button. Other similar offers from merchants will be announced later this month.

Stebbins says the AIDC hopes to have a schedule set by the week of April 21. Scheduling requests from cities are arriving at the AIDC daily, she says.

"There may be more than one city in a day scheduled," she says. "Where possible we're doing some geographic planning so we can do, say, Walnut Ridge and Paragould in a day. It's a more efficient approach. But we're accommodating the requests on a first-come, first-serve basis, and in some cases we're running from one corner to the other in a day or two."

While some manufacturing jobs are leaving Arkansas, the state's promoters are working hard to pull in new industrial development.

Many of the largest new industrial plants and expansions recently announced by the AIDC are being driven by the state's forestry industry. In fact, the largest new plant underway is Deltic Timber Corp.'s Del-Tin plant, a medium-density fiberboard facility being built in El Dorado.

The biggest existing plant undergoing an expansion, according to the AIDC, is at the Georgia-Pacific Corp. facility in Crossett, which manufactures a variety of paper products. The $140 million expansion will create 100 jobs and allow the facility to manufacture tissue-based items such as napkins.

Georgia-Pacific is the state's third-largest manufacturer with 19 facilities in the state. The Atlanta-based corporation is spending a total of $218 million expanding its facilities in Crossett, El Dorado and Ashdown, all of which will increase the company's paper and pulp producing capabilities.

It's in the Bag

International Paper has started up operations at its relocated dunnage plant in Fordyce; the plant was previously in Camden.

IP announced last year its plans to combine two of its facilities under one roof. The company says another suitable site couldn't be found in Camden, and the vacant Alcatel Cable plant in Fordyce was selected.

Renovation of the Fordyce building began in October, and operations started up around the first of the year. The plant employs 125 people in the manufacturing operations and several more in the building's office.

IP says all the Camden employees were offered the option to transfer to Fordyce. Plant Manager Loel Tutt says about five decided against the move. International Paper plans to hire an additional 30 employees from the Fordyce area in the next three years.

The dunnage plant produces high-stress paper bags that resemble large paper pillows. Those bags are used by truck and rail shippers to stabilize cargo.

West Memphis Jobs

A new 46,000-SF fiberglass plant has opened up. in West Memphis. Proform Corp.'s facility employs 50 and produces fiberglass covers for river barges. Proform introduced the synthetic covers to the market and continues to be a leading innovator in its niche.

The biggest ease to that city's unemployment rate is a relocated Watkins Motor Lines Inc. terminal that brings 350 jobs with it. Watkins is a long-haul common carrier based in Lakeland, Fla., that will invest $8 million for the new 154-bay terminal.

The terminal was previously across the river in Memphis before the company decided to move the operation to the Mid-America Industrial Park in West Memphis.

The plant could eventually employ up to 500 people.

Significant Growth

Several cities in the state tallied record manufacturing growth in 1996.

The Greater Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce announced the addition of 50 firms that planned more than $114 million worth of capital investment.

The industrial growth added up to 1,030 future jobs that will result from the projects. A large chunk of that growth was from the new Frito-Lay Inc. plant, which is expected to come on-line in a few weeks. That 400,000-SF project will be worth an estimated $85 million and create about 700 new jobs.

Conway is having record growth, also. The largest industrial project there is an $11 million expansion with 50 new jobs at the city's Kimberly-Clark Corp. facility. An expansion is also under way at Kimberly-Clark's facility at Maumelle.

In the northwest corner of the state, business and industry expansion in Rogers totaled $74.9 million, accounting for 1,288 new jobs.

Rogers owes a large portion of its growth to Bekaert Corp.'s $35 million, 200,000-SF plant expansion there that will add 50 new employees.

A new plant that will add jobs to Tyson Foods Inc.'s poultry protein conversion facility at Buzzards Bluff. That new facility will employ 125 people when it's completed.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Industrial Development Commission
Author:Harris, Jim; Little, James
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 7, 1997
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