The Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s European business development director was introduced on Friday as honorary consul for the Czech Republic in Arkansas.
Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the U.S., Petr Gandalovič, introduced Lenka Horakova into the office of the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic at a ceremony held Friday at the Governor’s Mansion.
“Lenka has been a tremendous asset in enhancing Arkansas’ relations with current and future European investors,” Gov. Mike Beebe said. “This summer, I saw firsthand how well-respected she is in her native Czech Republic, and I know that she will serve that nation well here in Arkansas. This is a great honor for Lenka, and we are proud to count her as an Arkansan.”
Beebe traveled to the Czech Republic as part of a European trade mission earlier this year. Horakova, the AEDC’s Business Development Director for Europe, a U.S. citizen, has lived in Arkansas for the past 17 years. She is an honors graduate of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and its graduate school of business.
As Honorary Consul, Horakova’s duties will include:
- Notarization of documents for use in the Czech Republic
- Assistance for Czech citizens visiting Arkansas
- Trade development
- Tourism promotion
- Cultural exchange facilitation
- Compatriot affairs
Gandalovič, a former math and physics teacher, sat down with Talk Business & Politics on Friday to discuss economic activities in the Czech Republic and the selection of Horakova for the title.
“The process of how we select honorary consuls is always based on ‘mutual interests’,” he said. “We select an area for a consul because of economic potential or frequency of tourist activity.”
He said Horakova came to the forefront for the unpaid, honorary position after Czech officials worked with her on the European trade trip with Beebe this summer. The Governor indicated that during the trip he met with more than a dozen Czech companies from sectors that included aviation, industrial manufacturing and small-arms production.
Gandalovič also said since the country has come out from under the Iron Curtain of the former Soviet Union 25 years ago, it has struggled to re-center its industrial footing as a free-standing democracy, but he sees potential for aerospace relationships as well as other manufacturing concerns between Arkansas and the Czech Republic. “In the state of Arkansas, aerospace has been booming and in the Czech Republic I would say it’s in the process of recovery,” he said.
“We were one of the main suppliers of the Soviet bloc both to the military as well as the civilian [markets].” Gandalovič said his country is “one of the biggest automakers per capita in the world, but aerospace was rather slow [to rebound].” The industry has had to start over from “scratch,” he said. “We see our aerospace industry recovering and expanding, and we think there will be an opportunity for corporations with the state of Arkansas,” he added.