Going into the Paris Air Show, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he planned to market Arkansas to businesses around the world. This event, he said, is a chance to show the amount of progress and development going on in the Natural State.
“We’re not only there showcasing Arkansas, but we’re also competing and letting people know this is a great place to do business and to live,” Hutchinson told Arkansas Money & Politics in an earlier interview.
And he’s already off to a strong start. On the first day of the Paris Air Show, Hutchinson and Lockheed Martin announced that the company is investing $142 million to expand its operations at its “center of excellence” in Camden. The move will result in 326 new employees.
“Our facility in Camden is a highly efficient, high quality center of excellence that contributes components and performs final assembly for products that are important to the defense of the United States and a growing number of allied nations,” Frank St. John, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in a statement. “The facility has a long record of precision manufacturing and on-time deliveries, which is the reason we continue to invest in and expand our Camden Operations. This expansion will help ensure the availability, affordability and quality of systems we build for our customers around the world.”
The investment is earmarked for new construction at the Camden facility as well as improvements at the existing facilities. The site support multiple precision engineering projects, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Army Tactical Missile System (ATacMS), Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).
According to Camden site manager Justin Routon, “This facility has a long record of precision manufacturing and on time delivery. That’s the reason that we continue to invest in our Camden operations and consider them as a potential location for manufacturing…”
Construction on the new facilities is projected to begin in the third quarter of 2019. The project is expected to take roughly two-and-a-half years to complete. The ramp-up in employees is projected to last until 2024.
Currently, the site employs approximately 700 individuals. The investment will add an additional 326 employees. These employees, Routon says, will fill a “spectrum” of roles, from engineering to production and more.
“We’re looking for engineers, we’re looking for production workers. There are opportunities in finance, logistics, health and safety,” Routon says. “There will be other opportunities in the coming years.”
Pay scales at the Camden facility will be “above the state average from an hourly standpoint,” Routon says.
Lockheed Martin will be receiving several tax incentives to accommodate the investment, both at the local and the state level. According to James Lee Silliman, executive director for the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development, Lockheed Martin will be receiving $501,480 in total incentive funding, of which approximately $293,400 is earmarked for job creation incentives and $208,080 is designated for workforce training incentives.
Meanwhile, the Lockheed Martin has qualified for the ArkPlus income tax credit program and the Create Rebate, which provides cash payments based on the company’s payroll. All of the incentive programs, state and local, are performance-based.
Arkansas’ aerospace and defense industry, according to the AEDC, employs around 10,000 individuals in the state. During 2018, aerospace products were the state’s largest export, bringing in $1.8 billion.