DALLAS — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proposed general obligation bonds for a Lockheed Martin plant in southern Arkansas gained quick acceptance from lawmakers meeting in a special session.
On Wednesday's second day of the session the House and Senate quickly approved bills to authorize $87.1 million in bonds to help Lockheed Martin obtain a federal contract and create nearly 600 jobs in Camden. The bond issue is contingent on Lockheed Martin winning a military contract to build the next-generation vehicle for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.
Lockheed is competing with companies based in Indiana and Wisconsin for the contract to build the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle that would replace the current Humvee. State officials say the project would create jobs in southern Arkansas and help retain more than 550 jobs.
The identical bills are House Bill 1003 by Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, and Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan.
In 2013, the Legislature authorized the first issue of Amendment 82 bonds, with $125 million for the Big River steel mill under construction near Osceola.
"This is a golden opportunity for the state of Arkansas," Hutchinson said Tuesday morning at a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol.
"It's a golden opportunity because it means more jobs, because it would mean our first vehicle assembly plant in the state of Arkansas. It also is a golden opportunity because it is a 25-year commitment, and that's almost an eternity in terms of job creation, in terms of industrial growth," he said.