Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Pursuing International Investment
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This past week, I returned from what is likely to be my last international trade mission as Governor of Arkansas. The journey to three European countries showcased the full range of all that can be gained through in-person contact with current and potential international investors. My team and I met with long-time partners we hope will further expand their presence in Arkansas. We met with companies we hoped to attract to our State, and we met with businesses just beginning to consider establishing operations in the U.S. On all fronts, we experienced good meetings that I am confident will result in more jobs for our people.
In London, we attended the Farnborough Air Show. While there are impressive flying demonstrations of aircraft new and old, the heart of the week-long event is business networking. More than $200 billion in orders and commitments were announced at this year’s show, and British Prime Minister David Cameron was in attendance to announce a new national defense initiative. For the first time ever, Arkansas had a booth at the fair to showcase our role in the aviation sector. Other state and national governments were also present to pursue companies considering future investments.
From there, we visited Paris. French companies have had an enduring presence in Arkansas, and we have maintained good relationships with these employers during my administration. Leaders from companies, including Dassault Falcon Jet, L’Oreal and Pernod Ricard, have repeatedly come to Arkansas to meet with us over the years. So I try to reciprocate when I travel overseas to represent our State.
Our final stop was Prague, a distinctly unique world capital and an opportunity to build new relationships and meet with companies just starting to consider North American operations. It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell, and the Czech Republic is establishing a stronger foothold in the global economy while it grows as an independent nation. I met with representatives of more than a dozen Czech companies from sectors that included aviation, industrial manufacturing and small-arms production. It was easy to tell that these businesses are eager to explore opportunities for global operations that, just two decades ago, were unavailable to them.
An official at the U.S. Embassy in Prague told us that he could remember only three sitting American governors visiting the Czech Republic during his 15 years working there. Arkansas is clearly on the leading edge of exploring an economic future with an emerging international partner.
As I don’t enjoy being away from Arkansas for long periods of time, I have led fewer international trade missions than some other governors. But when I have traveled, I’ve seen, time and again, the irreplaceable benefit of direct, person-to-person contact in establishing and maintaining good relationships. Whether these contacts pay off quickly, or further into the future, they help bolster Arkansas’s image and reputation around the world in an increasingly global economy.