Independence County vying for gun manufacturer, new businesses - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Independence County vying for gun manufacturer, new businesses

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BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Some potentially good economic news has emerged from Independence County.

A Batesville business announced plans to expand and create new jobs, but there could be even more jobs coming from a different source.

Stricter gun laws in several Northeastern states have made a few gun manufacturers consider relocating. One company in particular is reportedly looking at Batesville as a potential place to move its business.

The Independence County Economic Development Commission started sending recruitment letters in April to gun manufacturers and related suppliers in hopes they would relocate to the Batesville area.

One company responded positively and sent a request for a proposal to build a new facility.

"That facility would be 135,000 square foot manufacturing and office facility on 25 acres," said Larry Jones, the Independence County economic development director.

Jones is unable to share the name of the gun maker right now, but he says the company has expressed its desire to move.

"They're looking for a state that's more friendly to what they're doing," he said. "Also, it will allow them to have lower labor costs and move closer to major markets than they are now."

The proposed gun manufacturing facility would create somewhere between 250 and 500 new jobs that are both highly-skilled and well-paid.

"We are in competition with a few other communities in Arkansas and some in Texas for this opportunity," Jones explained.

Members of the Economic Development Commission have already sent the manufacturer several potential sites, details about an economic incentive package and other helpful information to hopefully influence its choice. Jones expects to find out the company's decision about where its new facility will go as early as July.

In the midst of attracting new business, Independence County is helping an existing one grow.

Flowers Baking Company, a bread distributor in Batesville, plans to add 60 jobs once a new distribution warehouse is built. The proposed warehouse will become the first building constructed on the county's new business park, located off White Drive north of Batesville.

The Independence County Economic Development Commission has agreed to construct the 5,600 square foot building, which Flowers Baking will lease from the county for 20 years. The county will fund construction using revenue from its economic development quarter-cent sales tax.

Construction is expected to be finished by the end of 2013. The project should cost about $550,000 to complete.

"The funds are in place to build the building [and] extend the utilities," Jones said. "We're ready to go."

Focusing on those projects are apparently not enough. Jones says he's also started talks with the state about bringing a proposed veterans home to the Batesville area.

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