Friday, Jul 4, 2014
Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: European Opportunities
This month, I will lead the last overseas trade mission of my administration. It has often been difficult to convince me to leave Arkansas for more than a few days at a time. However, I recognize the importance of these trips, the personal relationships they establish and the economic opportunities they provide for our State. Whether connecting with existing Arkansas companies or meeting new prospective employers, these trips can also produce more investments and new jobs for Arkansans.
Our first stop will be the Farnborough Air Show near London. Held every two years, it is one of the biggest aviation events in the world. While attracting exhibits and fans from all over the globe, it also brings together hundreds of aviation companies. Two years ago, more than 100,000 visitors came to the trade portion of the Air Show, and it is often the setting for major manufacturing announcements. Given Arkansas’s prominent role in the aerospace sector, it is an ideal place for us to have a presence. I will be leading a delegation of existing Arkansas companies, representatives of our largest airports and trade experts. After I have visited and moved on to the next leg of my trip, Arkansas will maintain a booth at Farnborough for the duration of the trade event.
Next, we will stop in Paris. French companies have long been important trade and investment partners with Arkansas. During this visit, we will again meet with our friends at L’Oreal and Dassault Falcon Jet, along with other corporations and businesses. L’Oreal’s operation in North Little Rock remains the company’s largest and most efficient in North America, and its continued growth will ensure employment for hundreds of Arkansans for years to come. Dassault, you may remember, weathered tough times during the recession, as did all companies in the private aircraft business. But when the economy improved, it announced a $60-million-expansion investment in Little Rock, making the Little Rock operation Dassault’s largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Finally, our trade delegation will go where few governors have visited before: the Czech Republic. Our Arkansas Economic Development Commission has unusually strong ties to the country, and there are growing Czech companies that are, or soon will be, looking to expand into North America. They encompass a number of industries, from aerospace to automotive to firearms accessories. Arkansas has the chance to establish and build new relationships that will put us in prime position for future job growth from international investors.
There are, of course, specific details about certain meetings we will have in Europe that I am not ready to discuss publicly. I hope that some of these face-to-face interactions will positively influence decisions about new and expanded employment opportunities for our Arkansas workforce. After all, that is the purpose of these trade missions. While fostering new ideas and entrepreneurs at home, we also look the world over for current and future investment. The more people we prove Arkansas’s worth to, the more our economy will grow in the decades to come.