Tue, Oct 31, 2023 3:00 PM
By Merrilee Gasser, The Center Square
Lockheed Martin has nearly doubled the Arkansans it employs since 2018 and is working to build a "robust" semiconductor industry in the state, the company's president and CEO said Tuesday.
The move would bring more high-quality and high-paying jobs to Arkansas, James Taiclet said during the Arkansas Economic Development Commission Foundation's Luncheon in Little Rock.
Furthermore, Lockheed Martin is planning to spend $6 billion over the next eight years to upgrade its entire operation to harness digital technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence, according to Taiclet.
"These are 5G internet networks that don't exist for any nation in the world and we're going to build the first one here in the United States for our national defense," said Taiclet.
Lockheed Martin currently employs approximately 1,100 people in Arkansas at its facilities that span across 2,400 acres, according to the company. It generated $3.8 billion in sales in the state with $1.8 billion worth of Arkansas supplier contracts.
Taiclet said the semiconductor industry Lockheed Martin is developing in Arkansas would complement the state's aerospace industry.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was also present at the event, said aerospace is Arkansas' number one export industry, with over $1 billion in exports.
"Lockheed isn't just here to build rockets, they're helping Arkansas become America's arsenal," said Sanders. "And they've also partnered with our universities, with our state, and with the City of Camden to help all of Arkansas do better."
The governor said her administration has been looking at ways to grow the state's aerospace industry.
RTX is building a $33 million manufacturing facility in East Camden that will produce the Tamir interceptor missile for Israel's Iron Dome Weapon System and its U.S. variant, Sanders announced last week. The facility will create 30 jobs, RTX officials and the governor said.
"Arkansas' economy is absolutely booming. More Arkansans are working than ever before," Sanders said. "Our unemployment rate is about a full percentage point below the national average, and we've been ranked the third least expensive state to start a small business, the second most affordable state overall and the first state in the country for entrepreneur opportunity.
The governor created a Workforce Cabinet to address the state's workforce shortage shortly after taking office.
"I'm convinced that Arkansas can build the blueprint to address the workforce shortage here and set the model and the tone for the entire country," the governor said.