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My Favorite Topic

Last week I was in Fort Smith talking to the Regional Chamber of Commerce about my favorite topic: economic growth.

In Sebastian County alone over the last five years, 15 new and expanding companies have created over 1,400 new jobs and brought an investment of more than $238 million into the county.

But that’s not all. In addition to these businesses, ArcBest recently broke ground on its new corporate headquarters, creating 975 new jobs. That brings Sebastian County’s grand total to more than 2,400 new jobs in the last five years. This good jobs news is a testament to the local leadership, the quality of life in Arkansas, our improving workforce and a dedicated approach to economic development.

This upward trend of job growth hasn’t been confined to the areas in and around Fort Smith. Across the state, businesses are growing and thriving. Last month, I was in Mountain Home when Baxter International announced the addition of 225 new, full-time jobs in its manufacturing facility. In Melbourne, Micro Plastics invested $2.4 million to build and expand its facility. Over time, this will create 79 new jobs.

Since January, more than 80 new and expanding companies have signed agreements with our state’s Economic Development Commission, ultimately resulting in over 2,600 new jobs and nearly $1.7 billion in new investments for the state.

The way the economy works has always fascinated me. Like so many Arkansans, I was raised to have an entrepreneurial spirit. I think it must be in the water here.

When I was a youngster, I started my own shoe-shining business in a local barbershop in downtown Gravette. It grew into a nice little business. After establishing my brand and a good reputation, I sold the business to a friend for $25. I worked hard, I provided a needed service, and I made a profit. That mentality has stuck with me, and it influences my perspective and work ethic to this day.

On my first full day in office as Governor, I made calls to chief executives across the country to let them know that Arkansas is open for business. I made the calls to fulfill a campaign promise but also to set a tone, to send a message that we are aggressively marketing our state. This is something I continue to do on a regular basis.

I’ll end my workweek later today by meeting one-on-one with a CEO. Everything we do, from education to healthcare, revolves around jobs and economic development.

The world has changed. If I were coming of age now, I may be launching a web business instead of a shoeshine stand. But the spirit behind the business remains the same. By our nature, Arkansans are hardworking, innovative and pioneering — and those traits pay off in any age.

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