Sometimes being governor is a bit like being a farmer. Especially when it comes to economic development. You plant seeds — water them, nourish them, tend to them — and hope the effort pays off at harvest time.
Last week, we planted seeds from Arkansas all the way to California.
First of all, here at home, I continued my tour of high schools to promote our computer science initiative, stopping at schools in Conway, Mayflower, Arkadelphia, Jonesboro and Paragould. By the time we finish the tour at Star City, I will have visited a dozen high schools in less than a month. Each was a delight.
As we have crossed the state touting our computer science initiative, I’ve been encouraged and gratified by the enthusiasm of the students. And I don’t think it’s just because the school year is ending soon.
By and large, these students have grown up in a high-tech world, and they understand the importance of learning to code. More and more, it’s a fundamental skill.
I also took an economic-development trip last week to Silicon Valley in northern California. The purpose of the trip was clear: to promote Arkansas; to plant seeds for future technology expansion in this state; and to educate Silicon Valley on our computer science education program.
Along with Mike Preston, the executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, our team visited companies from Facebook to Intuit; from SAP to Hewlett-Packard, which already has a presence in Conway.
Intel, Cisco, Linked In … we made a lot of stops in a short amount of time. And I’m glad we did. While most of the executives were generally aware of what we’re doing in Arkansas, had I not made the trip, Arkansas would not be on their radar. Now, we are.
A highlight of the trip occurred at the new headquarters of Facebook. Touring the facility, I noticed unfinished plywood covering some walls around the staircase, and then I noticed there were all kinds of walls and furniture that were not finished. I made a light-hearted remark about not finishing the building and was told that the unfinished work was intentional. It was to remind those at Facebook that their innovation and their work is not complete. There is still much to do.
While I do believe in finishing the job, the story illustrates that in the world of technology, we are constantly changing and creating. We are always looking for a better way. I think this applies to Arkansas, as well.
All in all, it was a productive and educational trip; eventually, it could prove a fruitful one.
Be patient. Harvest time is coming.