LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday he has signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese clothing maker Suzhou Tianyuan Garments Company that plans to spend $20 million to open a plant in Little Rock that will employ 400 people.
Talking to Arkansas reporters via Skype from Beijing, Hutchinson said he and Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston signed the memo earlier in the week during his week-long trade mission to that country. The governor also answered questions about Donald Trump and a proposal to cut state funding for War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
“This investment in Arkansas represents the first apparel company that will begin manufacturing from China into the United States,” said Hutchinson, who also visited China late last year. “This company is an aggressive company that specializes in sportswear, and they provide 90 percent of the sportswear for Adidas.”
A specific site in Little Rock for the plant has not yet been chosen. The memo states that if no suitable location is found in Little Rock, the company will open a plant elsewhere in the state.
The memo calls for the company to begin operations in Arkansas by Dec. 31, 2017, and to create 400 jobs over four years, with an average wage of $14 per hour.
Preston said talks with the company began earlier this year and that company officials have visited Arkansas and met with the governor in his office.
The announcement comes six months after another Chinese company, Shandong Sun Paper Industry, announced plans to build a $1.3 billion mill in Clark County.
According to the memo, government incentives the company will receive for the project include $1 million for building improvements and/or equipment purchases, $500,000 for training, rebates estimated at $1.59 million, tax refunds estimated at $134,000 and the abatement of up to 65 percent of property taxes through agreement with Little Rock and Pulaski County.
Hutchinson’s trip is costing the state $45,024, according to the governor’s office.
The Republican governor also was asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statement during a debate Wednesday night that “I’ll keep you in suspense” as to whether he will accept the election results if he loses to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I’ve always said that I don’t like the way Donald Trump phrases things,” Hutchinson said.
“Whenever you look back at the close election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, I would have hated to see George W. Bush say in advance that he’s just going to concede the election,” he said. “He needed to be able to reserve the right to contest any state that was close, and Florida was close. So in that context I can understand, if it’s going to be a close election you don’t want to foreclose your options to say this needs to be looked at more closely.”
But Hutchinson also said it is traditional that a presidential candidate who loses recognizes the validity of the election process, supports the person elected and moves on. He said that particularly with the rest of the world looking on, he wished Trump had said that.
“That’s how I wish he would have articulated it during the debate, that absolutely whenever the American people speak we accept it, and barring some unforeseen circumstances we will abide by the election results,” he said.
Hutchinson also was asked if his proposed budget for War Memorial Stadium, which would cut state funding from $895,171 to $447,647 in the next fiscal year, would jeopardize the stadium’s ability to remain open.
“I have a strong commitment to War Memorial Stadium, and any action I take will lead to a more successful War Memorial and its future because I believe that it is an important asset for the state of Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.
The governor said the stadium was self-sustaining until 2006, when it began receiving state funding.
“I think it needs to go back to a self-sustaining budget. I want to help it get there,” he said, adding that he will announce more plans for the stadium in the coming weeks.