By CHUCK BARTELSCLINTON, Ark. (AP) â¿¿ Food company Global Food Group will spend $4.7 million to turn a former electrical cord factory into a processing plant set to eventually employ more than 200 people in job-starved Clinton, Ark., Van Buren County leaders announced Wednesday. For the past five years or so, the city about 70 miles north of Little Rock has weathered one loss after another. The Pilgrim's Pride chicken plant closed, laying off 350 people. A boat manufacturer stayed closed after being destroyed by a tornado, costing 80 jobs. The electric cord plant closed and moved to Mexico, taking more than 100 jobs. Local and state officials spent about 18 months working out incentives to bring Global Food Group to town. Global President Robbie Brown said he wanted to locate in Van Buren County because workers are trained and available, though he said it would take about five years to reach the planned 224 employees. The unemployment rate is about 9.5 percent in the county, which has 17,000 residents. The state unemployment rate is 7.1 percent and the national rate is 7.8 percent. Pete Giovaninni, executive director of the Van Buren County Economic Development Corp., said the plant will be attractive to local residents who have had to find work out of town. "We have people who have had to go to Clinton, Batesville, Little Rock or Harrison for jobs. This is an opportunity for them to come back and work in the town they live in and raise their kids in," Giovaninni said. Global has a food plant in Georgia, but Brown said he wanted another facility closer to his headquarters in Cabot, just northeast of Little Rock. The plant will produce sandwiches, quesadillas, tortillas and burritos that are sold in convenience and grocery stores. Workers will also produce chicken tenders, vegetables, bread, rolls, biscuits and potato products. The plant will install a cold storage facility to rent space to other food producers, Brown said.
Brown said he expects the plant to enable the company to give its brands greater reach and expand the range of offerings.Global Food Group's customers include Associated Grocers, Super Value, Harps, and Food Giant. The company is a subsidiary of Global Performance Group of Cabot. Gov. Mike Beebe planned to attend Wednesday's announcement, but officials said he had to cancel because of illness. A number of government incentives helped Clinton land the facility. The county will invest $2.5 million from a federal Community Development Block Grant in improvements to the plant. Global is also eligible for a 3 percent income tax credit based on the number of new jobs created. The company will also get refunds of sales tax paid on building materials, machinery and equipment associated with the project. The county owns the factory but is to convey about 15 acres to Global through an industrial revenue bond process, Giovaninni said. Giovaninni said he hopes other employers are getting the message that Van Buren County has an able workforce and plenty of people looking for jobs. "What it is doing is creating buzz for Van Buren County and Clinton," he said.