The big news Oct. 26 was that a company called Trex announced it will build a $400 million plant at the Little Rock Port that will employ more than 500 people.
This story is about the role Entergy Arkansas played in persuading Trex to choose Central Arkansas over numerous other locations it considered.
Trex describes its products as “the world’s number-one brand of wood-alternative decking and high-performance, low-maintenance, eco-friendly outdoor living products.” (See sample photo below from the Trex website.)
While manufacturing is about things, behind the things are people; people building relationships, earning reputations, doing groundwork in faith that if you build it – or at least get the site to a point where someone else can build it – they will come. Two of those people, in this case, work for Entergy Arkansas’ Department of Business and Economic Development: Joe Bailey and Katherine Holmstrom (pictured at right).
Holmstrom is actually new to Entergy Arkansas, having started in mid-September. She was working for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission when she was contacted in October 2020 by Global Location Strategies, a site selection consulting firm working on behalf of Trex. The state is often a first point of contact, and Holmstrom went to work facilitating discussions about possible sites and incentives.
Meanwhile, Entergy had been laying the groundwork for this success for years. Bailey has been a member of the Little Rock Port board of directors for 10 years and currently serves as its chairman. His voluntary role on the board and his full-time job as project manager for Entergy Arkansas are complimentary responsibilities; since Entergy Arkansas serves all customers at the port, what’s good for the port is good for Entergy Arkansas.
Entergy Arkansas has for several years been promoting a program called Select Site, which is a process through which a site owner works through a detailed checklist of 50 items like soil sampling, title clearance, utility availability, proximity to transportation, and much more. Select Sites are basically shovel-ready, saving the new business a great deal of time, effort and uncertainty. Several of the sites at the port are Select Sites, and Global Location Strategies knew that when they were searching for a site. That put the Little Rock Port on their radar.
Trex eventually selected a site that wasn’t a Select Site, but Entergy Arkansas’ efforts at accommodation helped win the day just the same. In addition to Bailey and Holmstrom serving as facilitators, a team of 10-plus Entergy Arkansas transmission and distribution employees worked diligently on the project to ensure Trex will have access to the 8 megawatts of power it needs in year one and nearly double that in year two. This includes building a substation, at the customer’s expense, just for Trex.
Trex will break ground in the first quarter of 2022 and should be operational by the beginning of 2024. Meanwhile the economic development professionals at Entergy Arkansas will be working behind the scenes on more big – or small – announcements of new jobs for Arkansans.
Entergy Corporation is widely recognized for excellence in the art of economic development. See: Entergy Named a National Leader in Economic Development for 14th Year in a Row.