The state of Arkansas officially opened an office in Germany on Wednesday to gin up economic development. The opening, replete with a reception at the U.S. Embassy, came as Governor Asa Hutchinson’s trade mission to Europe nears its close. He also attended the Farnborough International Airshow near London.
Speaking via telephone from the heart of the European Union, Hutchinson said Arkansas needs to have a presence to secure trade and investment opportunities.
"Arkansas has to be here at the table competing with other states,” he said.
Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston echoed the governor’s comments.
“A lot of other states who also have offices in Germany will contract with a larger firm that could represent multiple states. We wanted someone who would be solely focused on Arkansas,” said Preston.
Cornelius Schnitzler, a German national, will run the Berlin office while working with the AEDC’s Director of Business Development in Europe Lenka Horakova. Preston praised Schnitzler for his existing ties to European commerce.
“When we evaluated this we thought, ‘do we send an Arkansan over to Germany and have him work exclusively for Arkansas in Germany?’ But the time it would take to develop the relationships over here would probably set us back three or four years,” Preston said. “We can’t afford to wait any longer to get more proactive in Europe and other places around the world."
Preston said Schnitzler and Arkansas businesses still need to become familiar with each other, “We look forward to having him in Arkansas at some point to introduce him to companies here so they know they have a contact in Europe should they look to increase their exports.”
Schnitzler studied in the United States at the University of California Los Angeles and earned a PhD in Economics at Georg-August-Universtat Gottingen in 2013. He served in the German Armed Forces, academia, and most recently as a management consultant and project leader for the European Centre of Expertise for the Healthcare Industry EEIG.
The Arkansas delegation’s trade mission came on the heels of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. The governor saw a potential silver lining for the state.
“It is my judgment that we’ll be in a better position to negotiate trade deals. I believe the European Commission is in a weaker negotiating posture than prior to the Brexit vote,” said Hutchinson. “I’m optimistic in the long term we will have a better market over here for our agricultural products and I don’t see Europe’s investment in the United States slowing down at all.”
Hutchinson also pointed to aerospace and the defense industry as areas where Arkansas can generate interest among foreign investors. Although at this juncture, nothing concrete has emerged.
“I do absolutely expect results from this trip,” said the Republican governor. “We have none to announce at this point though there’s well over a dozen significant leads that we have to follow up on. We’re delighted with the results of this trip thus far.”
The state’s two other international offices are in Japan and China.