Gov. Asa Hutchinson and economic development officials are planning a week-long trip to France, Germany, and Israel to invite new foreign businesses to Arkansas and bolster economic relationships with international businesses already in the state.
Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said at Wednesday's announcement that the delegation will first travel to the Paris Air Show. There officials will meet with executives from Dassault Falcon Jet, which has a major presence in Little Rock, as well as with prospective companies who may join the state’s strong aerospace sector.
From there they will travel to Germany, which ranks number one in terms of foreign-based companies that operate in Arkansas. 23 German companies have 34 locations in the state and employ 1,600 people, according to a handout provided to reporters.
The delegation’s final destination is Israel, which does not have any official business partnerships with the state. Governor Hutchinson identified Israel as a leading nation in the technology industry, and said that he is interested in capitalizing on this opportunity to market Arkansas technology businesses to Israeli companies.
"What has really struck me as critical,” said Governor Hutchinson, “is the consistency of these trips overseas. That it’s not just a one-time occasion, but that it reflects a continued commitment to that relationship and the international trade that is so important to Arkansas.”
This is the sixth international trade mission the governor has taken part in. When looking towards the benefits of his upcoming visit to Europe, Hutchinson cited the success of the state's international relationships in the past.
"Over the last five years, we had a 41 percent increase in foreign direct investment," he said. "We are actually leading the nation in foreign direct investment and the percentage of growth in that investment." Preston added that that 46,400 Arkansans are employed as a result of global investment.
In particular, the governor linked the arrival of the garment company Ruyi in Forrest City, recent investments from China, and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s expansion in Camden last year as directly related to the efforts he and the AEDC are putting forth in marketing Arkansas overseas.
Overall goals for the venture presented by Governor Hutchinson are to bolster the state's relationships with companies in the state with parent companies overseas; encourage the expansion of foreign business branches; to develop the state as a better business partner to foreign businesses; and to invite new business to bring jobs to Arkansas.
Hutchinson said that he does not expect any specific announcements of business partnerships to follow his return from Europe.
"This is in the trenches hard work and we expect results down the road. I've always said that we'll continue these trade mission trips as long as they produce results over the long term," Hutchinson said.