A China-based textile company announced today that it plans to create up to 800 jobs over two phases when it opens operations in the former Sanyo manufacturing facility in Forrest City’s industrial park.
Chairman Yafu Qiu and leaders of Shandong Ruyi Technology Group (Ruyi) this afternoon joined Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and local officials at the State Capitol to announce the company will invest $410 million locally.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the company had closed on the property, with a purchase price of more than $5.75 million. The Sanyo property includes a 1,415,336-square-foot building and 161 acres of property.
Ruyi, headquartered in Shandong Province, China, will initially create more than 480 new jobs at the facility, where Arkansas cotton will be spun into yarn for textile use. Following the completion of phase one, the company plans to add 320 new positions, bringing total employment to approximately 800 people. This is Ruyi’s first facility to locate in North America, according to a press release from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Kay Brockwell, an economic development consultant.
“Ruyi Group, as the largest textile manufacturer in China, has been expanding globally,” said Qui. “Our manufacturing facility in Arkansas will become the first milestone of Ruyi’s steps into the United States. We are dedicated to provide the product with cutting edge technology and superior quality.”
Ruyi’s renovations on the building are scheduled to begin later this year. The Sanyo facility has been vacant since 2007 when the company shut down production in Forrest City.
“Ruyi’s decision to locate in Forrest City brings with it up to 800 new jobs along with a significant economic impact on Arkansas’ cotton farmers,” said Hutchinson. “Our business missions to China, along with ongoing work to build relationships with the country’s business leaders, have now resulted in three companies from China’s Shandong Province announcing plans to locate operations in Arkansas. From Sun Paper to Pet Won Pet Products to Ruyi, we have established the state as a leader in foreign direct investment.”
Ruyi plans on processing more than 200,000 tons of Arkansas cotton annually at the Forrest City facility. Arkansas is the fifth largest cotton producer among all states, producing more than 840,000 bales in 2016.
“As a poor community in a poor region, this project is tremendously important to Forrest City and St. Francis County, not just for the great jobs it brings to our region, but also for how it will add value to the cash crop on which the Arkansas Delta economy has been based for more than 100 years,” said Brockwell, who has been working with St. Francis County officials on economic development projects. “Our cotton already goes around the world to clothe people everywhere, and now our growers will have the security of a market for their crop right here at home. There is great significance in the fact that the continuing globalization of the Delta will go hand in hand with our rich and proud agricultural history.
“I’d like to extend my personal gratitude to Chairman Qiu and the rest of the Ruyi team, and tell them, ‘Welcome to Forrest City.’” added Brockwell.
“This is great for Forrest City,” said Forrest City Mayor Larry Bryant. “This will be a very good stimulus for the whole Eastern Arkansas region, with Forrest City being the major area. Hopefully, it will create an atmosphere where others want to come to Forrest City again and start businesses.
“This is going to be good for our people, our tax base, for all of our businesses and it might spur economic development in the region,” said Bryant. “I think everyone will be energized and working toward the next economic development venture.”
Chris Heigle, president of the Forrest City Area Chamber of Commerce, said today’s announcement “validates the optimism of the people who have continued to live and work in the community.
“This was a joint effort of our city and county leaders, along with the Forrest City Industrial Development Commission and the Chamber of Commerce,” said Heigle. “This is the culmination of the community working with several different organizations over several years, setting a goal that economic development is important to us and putting things in place to make this happen.
“Immediately, it means there will be a ramp up in jobs, it will mean the need to identify a workforce for this company, and it will mean increased revenues for area businesses,” Heigle continued. “It will mean optimism for Forrest City for any future endeavors that we think we should go toward.
“This is what the Delta needs,” Heigle said. “This is going to take us from a post-agriculture society into a competitive economic market.”
“When looking to expand into North America, world-class international companies continue to choose Arkansas,” said Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “The hundreds of jobs to be created by Ruyi will have an economic impact beyond Eastern Arkansas into the entire state. Today’s announcement is further proof of Arkansas’ international momentum.”
St. Francis County Judge Gary Hughes was unavailable for comment on the announcement.
According to a previously filed property development document, the Chinese-based textile company said the facilities will be for industrial and commercial uses, which will include manufacturing, warehousing and distribution.
Shandong Ruyi Technology Group manufactures worsted woolen goods such as overcoats, suits, jackets and other pieces of clothing. They also produce leather goods, such as shoes and belts.