LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Economic Development Commission broke records for job creation and investment last year.
Thirty companies invested close to $6 billion and announced the creation of 5,359 jobs. The average salary of those new jobs is $29 an hour.
Last year got off to a good start, with the announcement of the largest single project in Arkansas history, an expansion of the U.S. Steel plant in northeast Arkansas.
Private companies aren’t the sole focus of economic developers. The United States Air Force and the State Department located the F-35 Foreign Military Sales Pilot Training Center at the Ebbing Air National Guard base in Fort Smith. Pilots will also be trained to fly F-16 fighter aircraft.
Other military investment by the federal government creates jobs at the Pine Bluff Arsenal and the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.
South Arkansas is home to some of the nation’s largest defense industries. Northeast and Central Arkansas also have hangar space, extensive runways and a skilled work force. They make aerospace and defense part of the state’s economic foundation. Their importance is reflected in the fact that 15 state universities and 22 two-year colleges in Arkansas offer courses in aerospace and military technology, as well as computer engineering.
More than 14,000 people work in Arkansas aerospace and defense industries.
Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia was the first institution in the state to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as an aviation maintenance training facility. Graduates can work anywhere in the world where aircraft maintenance is in demand.
Producing firearms and ammunition is another industry that is strong in Arkansas. Companies of varied sizes are throughout the state, employing more than 3,000 people.