Promoting Arkansas Across the Pond07/15/2016
Last Saturday, I boarded a flight to London with a team from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to attend the Farnborough International Air Show. Over the last 10 years, Arkansas has had a significant presence at the Farnborough Air Show – and this year was no exception. Attendees included 86 of the world’s top 100 aerospace companies and over 100,000 trade visitors from 56 countries.
Farnborough provided me an excellent opportunity to meet with aerospace industry leaders and sell Arkansas. In recent years, the aerospace industry has been one of Arkansas’s chief exports, accounting for nearly $2.3 billion in total export value over the last two years.
During our visit, Mike Preston, the Director of Arkansas Economic Development, and I met with representatives from more than 20 companies. We encouraged them to consider what Arkansas has to offer their businesses as they look to expand, and we were pleased by the level of interest we received during those meetings. In our conversations, several businesses in the aerospace and defense industry expressed their interest in the state, and let us know they were impressed with Arkansas’s computer coding initiative. As a result of these discussions, I am pleased to report that we have nearly a dozen leads with major companies to increase jobs and grow our state’s economy.
After the Farnborough Air Show, our delegation continued the trade mission’s momentum by traveling to Germany to announce the official opening of the Arkansas Economic Development Office for Europe in Berlin. The German office will be Arkansas’s third international trade office, with two others already operating in Japan and China.
So why, of all places, did Arkansas open a trade office in Germany? One of the reasons is because our state already has a strong working relationship with this country. In fact, Germany leads the list of countries with business operations in the state. Germany’s 30 Arkansas subsidiaries include manufacturers of automotive parts, power tools, and plastics. Together these German companies employ more than 1,600 Arkansans.
Germany’s central location in Europe and its position as our state’s largest foreign direct investor gave us yet another incentive to locate the office in Berlin. Over the next several years, this office will serve as the central hub for our efforts on the continent, enabling us to reach companies in the entirety of Europe with ease.
Today, more than 34,000 workers in Arkansas are employed by foreign-owned companies. These investments directly contribute to Arkansas’s growing economy and help us continue to improve our already record unemployment rate. The math is simple – more jobs mean even lower unemployment numbers, and more money in the hands of Arkansans. This week, I was proud to lay a foundation for Arkansas’s economy in the heart of Europe. I am excited to see the effects our efforts in Europe will have in bringing job growth and investment to our state.