Steel company expansion will create 115 new jobs in Arkansas

(The Center Square) - W&W AFCO Steel announced Wednesday the company is expanding with a new steel fabrication facility that is expected to create 115 full-time jobs over the next five years.

The deal is an additional $18.7 million investment in the company's operations in Arkansas, according to the announcement. Currently, the company employs more than 400 Arkansas residents.

The facility will be located in the former LM Wind Power building in the Port at Little Rock. W&W AFCO has five other plants in Arkansas, including three in Little Rock, according to president and chief operating officer Grady Harvell.

"Our bridge operations are headquartered in Little Rock and we are happy to seize the opportunity to make a productive plant out of this vacant building," Harvell said. "The new facility will enhance our ability to continue providing competitive steel bridges to the state of Arkansas and the region as well as increase our production capacity for steel building products."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said many of Little Rock's commercial buildings are built with AFCO steel.

"This new investment means new jobs for families," Hutchinson said. "It means a continued vibrancy in the steel industry in Arkansas and the Little Rock port being a home of manufacturing and industry."

Harvell said Pennsylvania used to be the center for steel production in the U.S., but Arkansas has taken that spot.

Hutchinson believes the steel industry's future remains bright in Arkansas, but he's worried about new federal regulations that could hamper growth.

The Biden administration announced Tuesday the reinstatement of environmental regulations the Trump administration previously rescinded. It will require an environmental review of major infrastructure projects to determine direct, indirect and cumulative impacts. It will also give federal agencies power to determine the "purpose and need" of a project.

"It's increasing regulations and we want to make sure that we enhance investments, we enhance growth, and we don't want to slow down major projects because of a regulatory burden," Hutchinson said. "We will do everything we can to eliminate that."

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