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PARAGOULD, AR-Axis LLC has become the latest company to plan a factory in Arkansas. A joint venture between American Railcar Industries and Chicago-based Amsted Industries Inc. is planning to build a $75-million axle manufacturing plant.

The 135,000-sf factory, bringing 40 jobs, will be completed in the third quarter. American Railcar Industries, headquartered in St. Charles, MO, already has manufacturing facilities in Paragould and Marmaduke, which is in the northwestern quadrant of the state. According to Joseph Holmes with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the new plant will bring Green County’s total employment to 1,300, making American Railcar the largest employer in the area.

Axis is one of a handful of manufacturers that have tapped Arkansas for new locations. Last week, Man Industries, a pipe-maker from Mumbai, India, revealed plans to build a $100-million plant at Little Rock Port. The plant will employ 300 people when it’s completed in 2009. In late February, officials from BJ Services Co. said they were locating an $82-million, 64,000-sf regional headquarters in Searcy. In 2007, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP of Owensboro, KY began building a $200-million gas pipeline lateral on the Fayetteville Shale, and Nucor Corp. of Charlotte, NC has started its second Castrip steel mill in Armorel near the Tennessee border.

Holmes says the series of announcements isn’t really luck as much as it’s the result of efforts by Gov. Mike Beebe and Maria Luisa M. Haley, executive director with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Holmes says the governor wanted more manufacturing in the state and Haley has gone about making Arkansas a mecca for the trades since her appointment to the position a little less than one year ago.

Additional fuel is coming from the Fayetteville Shale, a non-conventional oil reservoir in the state’s northeast quadrant. The Fayetteville Shale is attracting interest, particularly from pipe companies servicing natural gas, oil and other energy companies. “It’s been estimated that through the year 2012, the economic impact of the Fayetteville Shale will be about $22 billion on the Arkansas economy,” Holmes tells GlobeSt.com.

In the more immediate future, a recent report from Industrial Info Resources of Sugar Land, TX projected the construction of larger industrial projects in Arkansas will likely to continue. It says there are nearly $7 billion of industrial projects undergoing evaluation.

Holmes says he isn’t surprised at Arkansas’ popularity, especially given the work being put into economic development. “We have the infrastructure, with the interstate, railroad and the Mississippi River,” he adds. “That’s helping to generate a lot of activity all over the state.”

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