Gov. Mike Beebe (D) says it feels like he crammed 5 years worth of business development into 12 days during his economic trade mission to China.
Beebe returned Monday (April 16) from the Chinese trip.
He said he met with 11 different economic prospects that were in differing stages of possibly investing in Arkansas. Beebe was bullish on two later-stage prospective businesses.
“Two businesses were pretty far along” in their decision-making he said. One of those prospects was a smaller investment — a “foot in the water presence” — while the other was “more capital intensive in its investment.”
Without providing more detail, Beebe said one of the advanced-stage business prospects would be beneficial to timber interests in south Arkansas, while the other would tie into retail interests in western Arkansas.
He hinted that one early-stage prospect was not far along, but he would be “excited to talk about it in terms of scope” if it develops.
The Governor also said that some prospects had already visited Arkansas sites and local leaders and that his Chinese visits with those companies were natural advancements of discussions.
“One or two had already been to Arkansas and it was follow-ups with us on serious negotiations on their interest in an investment in our state,” he said.
Beebe said that Arkansas’ major advantages that were consistently discussed with Chinese business officials centered on U.S. geography, proximity to American markets, and an “attractive” workforce.
He also said his presence was important to moving negotiations forward with Chinese leaders.
“They do want to see the Governor. That became real evident,” he said.
Beebe also used the trip to discuss opening up markets for Arkansas products and he said he hoped to resolve trade issues related to Walmart and Tyson Foods, two highly visible Arkansas-headquartered firms with major Chinese operations.
Beebe said a tentative trade trip to France could materialize this summer. It would be a 4-5 day trade mission that would be “more agriculture related,” according to Beebe.
He said French officials have invited him to take part and would pick up expenses of the trip.
On a matter not related to China, Beebe offered commentary on the University of Arkansas’ firing of Razorback football coach, Bobby Petrino.
“It’s sad. It’s sad for everybody involved. I certainly support what Jeff Long did and what the school’s administration did. With all the stuff that came out, I’m not sure they had much choice,” said Beebe.
“What Coach Petrino did will leave a mark on the university, but what Jeff Long did will leave a bigger and more lasting mark on the university,” he added.