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SGL Carbon adding 45 jobs in state

by Noel Oman | January 22, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.

SGL Carbon, a global industrial giant based in Germany, will invest $4.5 million and add 45 jobs over three years to its carbon composite manufacturing operation in Arkadelphia in a bid to expand production to include components for electric vehicles.

A workforce of two dozen employees currently handle aerospace component production at the plant, which opened in Arkadelphia in 1996.

SGL Carbon received a mix of state and local incentives that included cash totaling more than $500,000.

The company received $333,750 from the Economic Development Corporation of Clark County, said Stephen Bell, president and chief executive officer of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Alliance.

The amount was based on a formula that takes into account the number of additional jobs, the wages and the size of the investment.

"We were in competition with another [new] site and an existing site," Bell said Thursday. "We really feel like the economic development tax made us competitive."

SGL has 29 production sites worldwide, according to the company website, employing more than 5,000 people.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission awarded SGL $235,291 in Community Development Block Grant funds, commission spokeswoman Chelsea O'Kelley said in an email.

The amount of assistance also is dependent on factors that include jobs, average wage and facility improvements.

The expansion of the Arkadelphia facility came after SGL announced in January it had won a "substantial contract with a North American automaker for high-volume serial production" of carbon and glass fiber-based composite top and bottom layers for battery enclosures" for electric vehicles.

"On top of this order, there is the potential for more significant extensions with further substantial volumes for the shared platform business of the manufacturer," the company said at the time.

On Thursday, a top company official, Steve Swanson, said the additional investment will diversify the Arkadelphia plant's offerings.

"Composite battery enclosures fit perfectly to the specific needs of modern e-car chassis," Swanson, operations vice president for SGL Composites, said in a statement.

The growth of an automotive parts supplier in the Clark County workforce could eventually bring an electric vehicle manufacturer to the county, according to Bell. The county has 1,000 acres available for such a facility after Sun Paper, the Chinese conglomerate, decided not build a mill there.

"We just feel like the expansion is not only good now but positioning the plant and the area for future industry," he said.

Other state and local leaders welcomed the investment.

"SGL Carbon is not only a global leader and innovator, it is also a valued member of our state's business community – a position it has held since it began production here in 1996," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the news release announcing the expansion.

"SGL's corporate philosophy of partnering with their customers is the same philosophy we follow in Clark County, partnering with our industries for job retention and expansion," Arkadelphia City Manager Gary Brinkley added.

The company anticipates that the production expansion will be fully operational by the end of 2021.

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