LITTLE ROCK — Shandong Ruyi Technology Group, China’s largest cotton textile manufacturer, said Wednesday it will invest $410 million in a manufacturing facility in Forrest City that will employ up to 800 people.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Ruyi’s chairman, Yafu Qiu, signed a memorandum of understanding in a ceremony at the state Capitol. Arkansas has agreed to provide cash incentives of up to $4 million and payroll rebates of about $11 million for the project.
Forrest City and St. Francis County have agreed to provide close to $1 million in incentives.
Ruyi has agreed to renovate the former Sanyo facility in Forrest City for its plant, where Arkansas cotton will be spun into yarn for textile use. The Sanyo plant has been vacant since it shut down in 2007.
The plant will be Ruyi’s first cotton-spinning facility in North America.
“It is something that’s going to have a tremendous impact on a county and on a region that has lagged behind the national employment statistics. In St. Francis County they have a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, whereas statewide it’s 3.6 percent,” Hutchinson said. “It’s going to give an economic boost to a region that much deserves it and has worked very hard for it.”
Qiu said through an interpreter the plant will use cutting-edge technology to produce a superior product.
Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, told Qiu, “We now consider you family.”
The renovations are expected to begin late this year, and production is expected to begin in mid-2018. Ruyi plans to process more than 200,000 tons of Arkansas cotton annually at the facility.
Arkansas is the fifth largest cotton producer in the nation, turning out more than 840,000 bales in 2016.
State Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, said after the ceremony the Sanyo plant employed between 600 and 700 people when it was at its height, though the number had dwindled by the time it closed.
The closing of the Sanyo plant “is part of the decline that you’ve seen in the Delta. This will be a part of the revival in the Delta,” he said.
Ruyi is based in the same province as Sun Paper and Suzhou Tianyuan Garments, which have announced plans to open plants near Arkadelphia and in Little Rock, respectively. Hutchinson has made two trade missions to China since taking office.