Spanish insulation manufacturer to open $29M plant at Little Rock port, create 50 jobs
March 31, 2022: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette (full link below)
The facility will be the first in the United States for Synthesia Technology Inc. for the "production of insulated products supporting the construction materials industry," according to a news release.
The company is scheduled to break ground in July on a 15-acre tract it is purchasing for $724,995 within the port's industrial park.
Synthesia is a nearly 50-year-old firm based in Barcelona. It was acquired in 2018 by the Irish company Kingspan Group, a global leader in insulated panels production with 166 manufacturing facilities and more than 15,000 employees in 70 countries.
"We're very excited about our future" in Little Rock, Anthony Doherty, in-house counsel for Kingspan, said by phone from Ireland. "We're at the early stages. We're getting our ducks in a row."
Both the Little Rock Port Authority board of directors and the Little Rock Board of Directors signed off on the land deal in separate special meetings Tuesday.
The city board approved three resolutions to clear the way for a Synthesia Technology Inc. facility at the Port of Little Rock.
They included a resolution authorizing Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to sell the port property to the company at the agreed-to price as well as a resolution to authorize the issuance of $35 million in industrial development bonds for the "purpose of acquiring and equipping industrial facilities at the Little Rock Port Authority on behalf of Synthesia Technology Inc."
The resolution also said because the project will be exempt from property taxes, the city will enter into an agreement with Synthesia for payments in lieu of taxes with the payments equal to 35% of the property taxes owed.
Scott, who had teased a forthcoming announcement related to the port during his State of the City speech Monday evening, asked Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President James Reddish as well as Bryan Day, the executive director of the port, to step to the lectern to announce the project.
"We are excited to be growing forward by adding another new corporate resident to the Port of Little Rock, continuing the strong trend of growth and continuing to make it a major source of employment not just for our community but for residents of 22 counties across Arkansas," Scott said in a prepared statement.
The company is at least the fifth plastics company to locate an operation at the port and the second in a row to commit to using a minimum number of rail cars at the port every year.
"They'll use about 800 rail cars a year," Day said. "It's a really good deal for the port."
Although the port was built to handle barges moving up and down the Arkansas River, moving rail cars in and out of the port is the facility's chief source of income. Each rail car movement, or switch, generates $350 in revenue for the port. In the case of Synthesia, that would equate to $280,000 for the port annually.
Last October, Trex Co. Inc. a leading maker of decking, railing and outdoor items from recycled materials, announced its intention to build a manufacturing plant at the port, bringing with it more than 500 jobs and an investment worth nearly $400 million.
The plant, once it is fully operational, is expected to generate 1,500 to 2,000 rail cars a year for the port, or up to an additional $650,000 in annual revenue.
Other plastics manufacturers at the port include the privately held HMS Manufacturing Co., which announced in 2020 it would open a production and distribution facility at the port in a 550,000-square-foot plant on Lindsey Road that would represent a $20 million and result in 90 jobs.
Revolution Plastics announced the same year that it will invest $20 million in its manufacturing facility at the port in an expansion that will create 60 new jobs. Revolution, parent company of Delta Plastics, will add 36,000 square feet to its facility at the port.
Ring Container Technologies, a privately held company based in Tennessee and the largest plastic container producer in North America, has a $15 million plant at the port to make containers for Skippy Peanut Butter, which has a production plant at the port.
The project came to the attention of the port through a local real estate broker and worked on the deal for nine months, Day said.
"They looked around the country," he said. "I think at the end of the day, they just liked what they saw in Little Rock. It's easy to get around. It's just a great place to be."
The state helped close the deal with two performance-based incentive programs for which the project qualified through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
"With all Arkansas has to offer -- our central location, our diverse infrastructure, our robust workforce, and our low cost of living, just to name a few -- I am confident that Arkansas has the tools to support Synthesia as they enter U.S. markets and continue their path to success," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the news release.
Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said Synthesia's decision to locate at the port underscores how "more and more companies come to Arkansas and see for themselves that this state is the best place to do business."
The Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce also assisted in the effort.
"It's gratifying to see nine months of hard work pay of with the decision of Synthesia to locate at the Port of Little Rock," said chamber Chairman James Cargill.