Editor’s note: Commentary from the office of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
I am delighted to wrap up another successful trade mission in China with my Arkansas Economic Development Commission team. This week, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Suzhou Tianyuan Garments Company, which will result in the creation of 400 new jobs and an investment of $20 million in Little Rock.
This is great news not only for Central Arkansas, but for our state’s entire manufacturing sector. Tianyuan’s investment in Arkansas represents the first apparel company to bring manufacturing jobs from China into the United States. As the major supplier of apparel to brands like Adidas and Armani, Tianyuan will be a valuable addition to Arkansas’s manufacturing sector.
But this trip wasn’t just about the deal with Tianyaun. We also met with Chinese officials to discuss increasing Arkansas’s agricultural exports. While making the case for Arkansas, we visited five cities over the course of six days in four Chinese provinces. I also met with the Vice Minister of Agriculture in Beijing and the Secretary General of Foreign Affairs. It was a big undertaking, but the trip is already yielding results and will continue to provide us with further opportunities to do business with China.
Agriculture is a major part of China’s economic landscape, with 45 percent of the Chinese population being employed in the agricultural sector. And with agriculture being Arkansas’s number one industry, we both have much to gain from building a stronger trade relationship.
Four companies that are owned by China-based corporations currently do business in Arkansas. One of the four, Sun Paper, is still in the planning stages, but will soon bring a tremendous boost to South Arkansas’s timber industry. And now, with our latest agreement, Tianyuan Apparel is set to become the fifth.
In today’s global economy, Arkansas can’t afford to sit on the bench when it comes to recruiting foreign investment in economic development. Last year, China’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, represented more than 17 percent of the world economy at $10.8 trillion. During that time, Arkansas’s exports to China totaled nearly $295 million, and because of our efforts to grow Arkansas’s relationships with China and its business leaders, our state is in great position to improve upon those numbers.
In the words of AEDC Director, Mike Preston, “When you’re doing economic development, relationships matter.”
Fostering strong relationships with industries across the world is critical to our economic development efforts. It is important that we continue to meet with government officials and business leaders face-to-face to advocate for Arkansas’s quality products and skilled workforce.
Whether we are hosting foreign companies in our state, or sending trade delegations to advocate for Arkansas on the international stage, the relationships we build will lay the groundwork for continued success in job creation here in Arkansas.