Chinese firm to build in Arkansas; $20M machine-parts plant to create 130 jobs

Posted: October 26, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

A Chinese company that makes machine parts for Caterpillar, Volvo, Komatsu and other manufacturers of heavy equipment announced plans Wednesday to build a $20 million factory in Jonesboro that will create 130 jobs over the next five years.

Heifei Risever Machine Co. is a family-owned company based in Heifei, China.

The 16-year-old company has more than 1,000 employees in China, and the Jonesboro plant will be the company's first in the United States, Lai Yonggang, the company's general manager, said Wednesday during an announcement in Jonesboro.

Lai said the company will invest some $20 million over the next five years in building a plant and eventually will hire 130 employees to produce 18,000 tons of steel parts each year. The plant will be in Craighead Technology Park on East Highland Drive in Jonesboro, less than 2 miles from Interstate 555, which runs southeast to Memphis.

Easy access to the interstate and recruitment efforts by state and local officials played a large part in the company's selection of Jonesboro, Lai said.

According to the company's website, the Chinese phrase "yong yuan shang sheng" translates into English as "Rise Ever." The company shortened that to Risever and said the name is to reflect a desire to "pursue higher realms rather than meet the status quo," according to the website.

Jeff Moore, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the company received a $1 million grant from the governor's Quick Action Closing Fund and a $100,000 grant from the commission for a job-training program.

The company also will be eligible for "performance-based" rebates on payroll taxes as jobs are created and on sales-and-use taxes on certain equipment and machinery purchases, Moore said.

The company hasn't provided information on median or average wages, Moore said.

The Jonesboro Economic Development Commission, which owns the technology park, will donate 27.5 acres to Risever, said Craig Rickert, a spokesman for Jonesboro Unlimited, a private group of developers and boosters. Jonesboro Unlimited also will provide $50,000 toward preparing the site for construction, he said.

Risever's first phase of construction will be of a 110,000-square-foot plant, Rickert said.

Kay Brockwell, an economic development consultant whose company, Future Focus Development Solutions, and home are in Jonesboro, helped represent Forrest City in an effort to take the Risever jobs there.

In Jonesboro, Risever will locate in a "well laid-out industrial park area with several developed tenants" that include the cereal manufacturer Post Foods, Hytrol Conveyor Co., Nestle USA, and Butterball Corp., Brockwell said.

"Some companies like to be the big fish in a small town" while others prefer the route taken by Risever in Jonesboro, she said.

"We made the short list but not the final cut, obviously," Brockwell said of the Forrest City effort. "While I am disappointed for Forrest City, I am happy for Jonesboro. Anything that brings jobs to eastern Arkansas or to northeast Arkansas is good for the entire region."

Forrest City received a "site visit" from Risever officials and was among six or eight cities in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi considered for the project in its final stages, Brockwell said.

Brockwell had a hand in drawing China-based Ruyi Technology Group this summer to Forrest City, where it will invest some $410 million in renovating the former Sanyo plant and eventually hire about 800 people to manufacture textiles using Arkansas-grown cotton. Renovation will begin in about six months, she said.

Risever is the fifth Chinese plant to announce plans to build in Arkansas since 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who also attended the Jonesboro gathering, said. He said Risever had "confidence in Arkansas that you can have the workforce that's needed, you can produce the product that your customers need."

Hutchinson also announced he will leave Tuesday for his third trip to China, to visit Risever's facilities and also to "rekindle ... and to make sure" relationships with the other Chinese companies remain strong.

The Arkansas unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent in September, is among the nation's lowest, and more than 60,000 jobs have been created in the state since 2015, Hutchinson said. "Notwithstanding that success, we have to have success every day and every week ... in an ever-changing global economy," Hutchinson said.

With Hutchinson on the trip will be: Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston; Alison Williams, Hutchinson's chief of staff; Yee Wong Yam, special adviser on trade with Asia; Mark Hamer, director of international business development for the commission; Ben Walters, the commission's international project manager; Lindsay Liu, director of the commission's office in China; and Neal Jansen, director of the commission's office in Japan.

A Section on 10/26/2017