The Arkansas legislature completed a special session after voting to issue $87 million in bonds for a proposed industrial development project in south Arkansas that would manufacture the next generation of light military vehicles for the Army and the Marines.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission has been working on the proposal for two years. Arkansas is in competition with Indiana and Wisconsin to be the site of the plant, which will produce more than 50,000 vehicles costing about $250,000 each. They will replace the military's current fleet of Humvees.
The new vehicles are designed to have equal off-road capabilities as a Humvee and to be more able to withstand explosions. They also will be equipped with the latest generation of communications technology. The Defense Department is expected to make an announcement this summer of the name of the company that gets the contract. Lockheed Martin, a major corporation with vast experience contracting with the Defense Department, is one of three companies vying for the contract. The company has committed to locating in south Arkansas if it is successful, partly because it already has a plant in East Camden.
The project would create almost 600 new jobs and secure more than 500 existing jobs at the East Camden location. The average salary is expected to be about $58,000 a year. According to an analysis commissioned by the legislature, if Arkansas is successful in recruiting the plant, over the next 25 years the net benefit to the state would be more than $16 million.
The legislature approved the issuing of bonds under Amendments 82 and 90 to the state Constitution, which authorizes the state to issue revenue bonds for economic development projects. Amendment 82 limited the bonds to projects in which more than $500 million is invested, and which create more than 500 new jobs.
Also during the special session, the legislature passed bills to merge several relatively small state agencies into larger ones, saving taxpayers more than $1 million a year in salaries. The legislature also made changes to state DUI laws to conform with federal statutes and ensure that more than $56 million in federal highway funding continues to flow into Arkansas.