Last November, I went on a trade mission to Japan and China. During the trip, I met with top executives from a China-based company called Sun Paper that employs more than 10,000 people worldwide.
After touring the company's headquarters in China's Shandong Province and explaining the benefits of Arkansas's timber industry, myself and Hongxin Li, Sun Paper chairman and founder, signed a letter of intent. In this letter, Sun Paper committed to investigating building a facility in South Arkansas.
Now, only four months later, the letter of intent has become a reality. This week, Sun Paper announced they will invest $1 billion to open a bio-products mill in Arkadelphia. The opening of this mill will create 250 new jobs that pay an average of $52,000 annually. It is also expected to result in more than 1,000 indirect jobs for those working in South Arkansas's timber industry. It is estimated that this mill will generate at least $28 million a year for timberland owners in the area.
In addition to this significant economic impact, more than 2,000 construction workers will be hired over a two year period to build this new facility.
Sun Paper's investment in Clark County is among the top two largest private investments in Arkansas's state history. It required a lot of teamwork. Legislators and leadership teams in Arkadelphia and Clark County worked hard to make this project a success. Stephen Bell, President and CEO of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance, was an instrumental part of the project.
Bell is excited about Sun Paper coming to Arkadelphia, but also for all the economic activity that goes along with it. He estimates the mill will bring millions of dollars each year to the area economy.
New tax revenue coming into the area will allow for greater improvements in infrastructure, which will help recruit industry and support existing businesses. Also, millions of new dollars generated from increased activity will go toward local businesses and strengthen our schools and colleges.
When Bell heard the big news, he said, "I was ecstatic and felt a great sense of pride for the community. This was a big accomplishment for the economic development team, and we couldn't have done it without the coordinated efforts of AEDC."
During the Sun Paper announcement, Chairman Li not only credited the economic advantages of choosing to do business in Arkansas, but also the development of personal relationships between Arkadelphia, the State of Arkansas and myself. He said, after researching and investigating locations for more than four years, "We are delighted to find a place to call home."
We are glad to have them here. Arkansas was a natural choice for this project, and it's been a pleasure working with everyone involved. There really is no place like home -- especially if home is Arkansas.