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Steel fabrication facility to be located at Port of Little Rock

Ronak Patel
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, local leaders and company officials pose for a photo during Wednesday's announcement.

A major steel manufacturer is planning to invest $18.7 million to create a new steel fabrication facility at the Port of Little Rock.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined officials with W&W|AFCO Steel Wednesday to make the announcement. The company was founded in Little Rock, but was sold to an Oklahoma-based company in 2002. Its subsidiary that makes components for bridges remained in Little Rock. The company already has three facilities in the city and four in the state, employing about 400 people.

Joe Bailey, chairman of the Port Authority’s board of directors, credited the location as a key factor in W&W|AFCO’s expansion.

“Our logistical advantages allow for businesses to connect to the world via highway, river and two class I railroads. We know these are some of the reasons W&W|AFCO chose to locate in the Port of Little Rock,” Bailey said. “We look forward to working closely with the company as they develop their site, build and expand in Little Rock.”

In addition to the port’s central location, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said the state’s workforce played a large role in the company choosing to expand in Little Rock.

“It was a combination of a lot of things that let it happen but ultimately what they [W&W|AFCO] told us this morning was because of the workforce that we have here. The workforce in Arkansas is unlike any other in the rest of the country. We are a state and a community that still likes to build things. We want to help build the infrastructure that propels America forward and propels Arkansas forward,” Preston said.

Chelsea O’Kelley, director of communications for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), said W&W|AFCO has been offered the Sales and Use Tax Refund and the Create Rebate Program.

According to the AEDC’s website, the Sales and Tax Refund provides refunds on building materials and taxable equipment to companies that qualify. The Create Rebate Program provides cash payments based on the amount of full-time jobs the company has created.

Hutchinson said W&W|AFCO’s expansion in Little Rock solidifies the state’s position as one of the nation’s leaders in steel. Earlier this year, U.S Steel Corporation, announced it would locate a $3 billion steel factory in northeast Arkansas.

Hutchinson credited both the federal government and local governments for helping Arkansas lure steel companies to the state.

“We continue to invest in infrastructure needs, we passed Issue 1 that invests in highways, we continue to invest in bridges, we invest in schools and we invest in airports. With the federal money that is coming to increase the investment in infrastructure, let me tell you, the future of the steel industry is bright here in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.

He explained the state can start construction on projects before other states even approve permits. He said this helped Arkansas get picked over states like Pennsylvania for steel projects.

W&W|AFCO officials said in a press release, their steel has been used in projects such as the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada and the AT&T Stadium in Texas. Last year, the company helped repair the Interstate 40 Bridge over the Mississippi River in Memphis after a structural deficiency was found.

The building W&W|AFCO will move into at the Port of Little Rock was formerly used by LM Wind Power.

In an email, Bryan Day, said W&W|AFCO and the port don’t have any agreements about how many railcars the company has to use each year.

Day said based on industry trends, the company could use between 75-80 railcars a year and that estimate could be higher, due to the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Biden last year. The Biden Administration has urged government agencies to use steel made in the U.S for infrastructure projects, according to a White House memorandum.