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Wal-Mart Supplier To Build, Ship Toys From Rogers

A company that makes battery-operated vehicles that children can ride said Monday it will spend $6.5 million to renovate a Rogers manufacturing site and hire 74 workers who will build products exclusively for Wal-Mart.Redman & Associates said production will begin in 2014.

ROGERS, Ark. (AP) -- A decade after Arkansas failed to land two automobile plants, it now has something similar to call its own: A Bentonville-based company will make battery-operated toy cars for children and eventually recall all work currently being done in China.

Redman & Associates will make 6-volt battery-powered ride-on toys that will feature characters from Disney and the Marvel franchises. Its president said the company will hire 74 workers to build products exclusively for Wal-Mart at a $6.5 million, 275,000-square-foot warehouse in Rogers.

Mel Redman, a retired Wal-Mart executive, said his company was spending $7 million annually on ocean shipping before any of his goods reached the West Coast and needed to be trucked throughout the country. He said by the end of 2016, all 600,000 vehicles now made in China would be built and shipped from Rogers.

"This is an example of when government and business get together ... this thing just takes off," Redman said. He said the 74 jobs, which will pay an average $18.55 per hour, would generate $3 million for the Northwest Arkansas economy.

State economic incentives, including tax credits, are tied to the toy company's performance.

Wal-Mart in August hosted a summit for suppliers and government economic officials and announced a plan to spend an additional $50 billion on American-made goods over the next decade. Redman had already been looking for ways to be more efficient and said at that meeting opened he'd discussions with state economic officials.

In 2002, Arkansas put together an incentives package in an effort to land a Toyota Tundra truck plant that eventually went to San Antonio, Texas. It lost another bid for a Toyota manufacturing plant to Tupelo, Miss.

Redman & Associates selected the Rogers site — just miles from Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville — after looking at the former Whirlpool facility in Fort Smith and other locations in Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

"I've been in Bentonville since 1984. I wanted to do this right here," Redman said.

Wal-Mart U.S. president Bill Simon said in remarks prepared for delivery that the project grew out of the manufacturing summit.

"It reinforces our belief that we can revitalize American manufacturing and help rebuild the middle class with good-paying jobs that will allow employees to be a part of the American dream again," Simon said Monday.

Gov. Mike Beebe, also in prepared remarks, touted Arkansas as an affordable business location.

"Americans want to buy manufactured goods made in America," Beebe said. "Wal-Mart's commitment to restoring U.S. manufacturing jobs and Redman & Associates' decision to bring these jobs to the U.S. allow more Americans to do just that."

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