HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Arkansas has some obvious leading industries, like agriculture, steel and a little former 5 and Dime based in Bentonville that turned into Walmart, but after a jobs announcement Monday, Hot Springs and Garland County are becoming a hotbed for aerospace parts.
"We manufacture very complex parts for the aerospace industry," said Tony Johnson, the CEO of Radius Aerospace after breaking ground on an expansion that will lead to 65 new jobs over the next five years.
"We try to stay with the complex parts. It seems that the easier parts have a tendency to go overseas."
That business model runs counter to the usual image of Arkansas as lacking in large numbers of technical labor talent. Radius, as it's called today, has quietly tried to change that idea for almost 50 years.
"We're celebrating 65 new jobs right here in Hot Springs and an overall investment of $24 million," said Clint O'Neal, executive vice president for global business for the Arkansas Economic Development Corp.
The expansion will allow for more high-temperature presses that require workers to reach into a 325-degree oven, and with precision, press plates of titanium into custom shapes. It's not something you go to school to learn, but that's not a problem for a company like this.
"When you're in a community like Hot Springs, your workforce, you pretty much have to bring in and teach them all the skill sets," Johnson said.
A partnership with National Park Community College is keeping the pipeline full of potential hires and it's helping churn out parts not just from Radius, but from three other similar companies in the area.
That should keep Hot Springs a hot job market in a $151 billion industry.
"If a company is willing to make the investment to really look to hire employees before you really need them and put that training into them, I think they'll be rewarded with a great workforce," Johnson said.
Crews go to work on the expansion next week. The 65 new jobs will earn between $18-20/hour and come on the heels of 100 other new hires in the last 12 months.