Defense News
March 21, 2023

How the war in Ukraine is driving growth in Arkansas

CAMDEN, Ark. — In downtown Camden, in south-central Arkansas, a large number of storefronts sit dark and empty, offering little insight into what once thrived there. On one block, only a florist and an artisanal soap shop were open on a recent Monday.


But 10 minutes away, the Highland Industrial Park was bustling and its parking lot full as some of the nation’s largest defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne and General Dynamics – manufactured solid-rocket motors, missiles, launchers and other weapons systems that proved critical to the U.S. military and are now front and center in Ukraine.

Camden has long depended on the defense industry….

Now the Lockheed facility is manufacturing the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System as quickly as it can.

The HIMARS – which carries fewer rockets and missiles than its predecessor, the M270, but is more nimble – is attracting worldwide attention for helping Ukraine….And it has put Camden’s bustling defense industry in the spotlight.


The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce has named HIMARS “the coolest thing made in Arkansas,” beating out more widely known products like Cheetos.

And Lockheed in recent months won nearly half a billion dollars in new contracts to build HIMARS and guided rockets for Ukraine. That’s a sizable number, considering Arkansas exported $1 billion of defense and aerospace goods in 2020.

Local officials are hopeful expansion at Lockheed and dozens of other defense contractors in Camden’s Highland Industrial Park, driven by the demand for weapons for Ukraine, will lead to growth in their region.

The state’s Chamber of Commerce anticipates Ouachita County, home to Camden, will see an influx of new employees – up to 1,000 total – at defense firms….