Work will begin next week on a $16 million, 100,000-square-foot expansion for Bekaert’s wire product plant in Van Buren.

Members of the Van Buren City Council on Monday night paved the way for the construction project by unanimously approving industrial revenue bonds for the expansion that will create 40 new jobs paying an average of $20 per hour.

Of the $16 million, $6 million is for construction and $10 million for new equipment.

“We are working with our contractor SSI Design and will begin as soon as possible,” said Melissa Turner, general manager of the Van Buren plant at 1881 Bekaert Drive. “It will take about six months for construction, but two years before everything is going.”

Mayor Bob Freeman said the Bekaert expansion is great for the community.

“Bekaert has been a part of the community since 1976,” Freeman said. “And, the city council’s actions tonight show the city wants to continue that relationship.”

Council members voted 6-0 for the revenue bonds and also unanimously to support Bekaert’s participation in the Tax Back Program, which will give Bekaert a 50 percent property tax break over a 10-year period.

Hit hardest by the tax break will be the Van Buren School District, Freeman pointed out.

However, VBSD Superintendent Dr. Harold Jeffcoat was at the meeting to support the expansion.

“The school district is thrilled to have this economic development,” Jeffcoat said. “We have had a long, productive relationship with Bekaert. This is a huge win for Van Buren and the region.”

Freeman said his office has worked with the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and state officials since November on an incentive package.

“The partnership between Fort Smith and Van Buren is very strong,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith chamber. “What is good for Fort Smith is good for Van Buren and what is good for Van Buren is good for Fort Smith.”

Allen said it is important for the entire region to work together to retain and grow jobs.

Terry Carson, president of the Van Buren chamber, said the expansion will be a valuable asset to the community and one “he supports all the way.”

Two council members, Jim Petty and Alan Swaim, also pointed out Bekaert is a valuable community member.

Petty said Bekaert has always supported the chamber and Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren.

“Bekaert always was a great corporate citizen when I was the director of the Field of Dreams,” Swaim said.

Bekaert employs around 30,000 people worldwide.