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Governor Sanders touts workforce board, education reform at Camden Timbers press conference

by Bradly Gill | February 10, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.
Photo by Michael Hanich Arkansas Governor Sarah Sanders, flanked by Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives Mathew J. Shepherd, speaks at Camden Timbers on Friday, February 10. Gov. Sanders spoke of the importance to Camden in driving economic impact in Arkansas.

In the first economic announcement of her new administration, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised Camden's contribution to the state's economy and discussed how her Workforce Board and education initiatives would drive economic impact in the state.

In May 2022, Astara Capital Partners LLC, announced that it had formed Camden Timbers LLC, to acquire and restore the assets of the Victory Lumber sawmill in Camden.

Governor Sanders said, "As you can see here this morning, Camden is an Arkansas manufacturing powerhouse. It is a huge deal for our state. This city is even producing some of the assets that are being used to fight the war in Ukraine. James (Silliman) and Clint's (O'Neil) economic work is literally changing lives, not just here in our state, but across the globe."

"This facility is a vision of what business development should look like in Arkansas, government and business working hand in hand -- instead of against each other -- to create jobs, invest capital and develop the next generation of talent. This previously idle and outdated facility is now home to one of the most advanced timber mills in the country, dozens of jobs and more than $50 million in annual economic impact," she continued.

Sanders talked briefly about her Workforce Development Cabinet introduced earlier this week.

"Workforce develpment, building our economy, attracting jobs to our state -- those are some of the central goals of my administration... We had the opportunity to roll out the Workforce Cabinet that will be led by Mike Rogers, who is right here on the front row today. Before now, we had so many areas of goverment working on workforce development; one of the problems is they were never sitting at the same table together. They were never coordinating with each other and cooperating to make sure they were delivering the best they could when it came to work force."

She also highlighted part of the education package her administration outlined this week. According to reporting by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the initiative would emphasize career readiness.

"We also introduced the Arkansas LEARNS legislation. This is my hallmark educaiton plan and one of the key points is the Career Ready Pathways Program, which brings employers like this one together with local high schools to give our young people the skills they need to find high paying job, as soon as they earn their diplomas," Sanders said.

Local and state economic development and company officials also attended Friday's ribbon cutting to celebrate the mill's reopening.

"We are thrilled that Astara is investing in Arkansas with the launch of Camden Timbers," said Clint O'Neal, AEDC executive director. "Arkansas is the heart of the timber basket in the United States, offering abundant natural resources and a strong industry workforce. These competitive advantages will help Camden Timbers thrive and meet the needs of its customers."

"Our community welcomes Camden Timbers in restarting the former Victory Lumber mill," said James Lee Silliman, executive director of the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development. "This facility will provide jobs and investment in our community and will greatly benefit the timber economy of south Arkansas."

"Astara is proud to invest in American manufacturing companies, and today's ceremony highlights the wonderful team at Camden Timbers and its special partnership with the state of Arkansas," said Astara Managing Partner Michael Ranson in a press release from Arkansas Economic Development Commission. "We appreciate the leadership of both Governor Sanders and former Governor Hutchinson, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Department of Finance, the Ouachita Partnership and a whole host of local leaders who helped make this project so successful."

Camden Timbers will create more than 50 jobs in the area. The company expects the sawmill to produce more than 50 million board feet of timbers and dimensional lumber through its sawmill, kiln and planer operations.

"Today's announcement by Camden Timbers is exciting for our community," said Camden Mayor Charlotte Young. "The timber and forestry industry plays a vital role in our local community. Camden is a natural fit for business investment, and we are excited to welcome Camden Timbers to our great city."

"Ouachita County is extremely proud that Astara Capital Partners and Camden Timbers have chosen our community to invest in the future," said Ouachita County Judge Robert A. McAdoo. "Their addition will increase workforce and prosper economic development in many avenues. As County Judge, I would like to say, 'thank you' for believing in Ouachita County and the revitalization of the Victory Sawmill."

Print Headline: Governor Sanders touts workforce board, education reform at Camden Timber press conference


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