LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A railcar company announced Wednesday a $51 million expansion of its operations in northeast Arkansas that would bring 300 jobs to the region, a day after two plants announced shutdowns resulting in hundreds of layoffs.
Gov. Mike Beebe and economic development officials marked the groundbreaking of American Railcar Industries, Inc.'s new manufacturing facility in Marmaduke. The company also announced two additional expansions in Marmaduke and Paragould.
''We're going to be able to have a significant expansion of a pretty good quality industry, and 306 jobs in northeast Arkansas helps,'' Beebe said.
The new facility will produce covered hopper railcars, intermodal railcars and tank railcars.
Beebe told reporters earlier Wednesday that the expansion was good news, but said he was concerned about the loss of jobs from the Sanyo Manufacturing Corp. factory announced Tuesday
Sanyo also will keep warehouse and distribution operations in Forrest City. Some corporate functions, including engineering, sales and customer service, will remain at the plant. When the last of the production lines stop in October, 475 workers will have lost their jobs, officials said.
Sanyo laid off more than 300 workers late last year.
''While we celebrate those 300 new jobs, we have to remember that those 300 people in Forrest City who are losing jobs have to be helped and assisted to, with job training and retraining in order to get them prepared for alternative economic opportunities,'' Beebe said.
The expansion also came after Wheatland Tube Co. announced it would shut down its Little Rock manufacturing facility by the end of September, with most of the factory's 145 workers to be laid off.
Beebe said he believes the loss of manufacturing jobs is small compared to the number of jobs created through a series of economic projects he's announced over the past month. Last week, a Denmark-based manufacturer of windmill blades announced Wednesday it will open a factory and North American headquarters in Little Rock, a $150 million project that will employ more than 1,000 people.
Beebe said the state offered the railcar manufacturer $2 million in incentives through community development block grants. He said the project will not require any money from a fund approved by lawmakers this year to attract new businesses and help existing industry expand.
American Railcar Industries was formed in 1988 and is a leading manufacturer of covered hopper and tank railcars in North America.