The sudden death of Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive director Maria Haley opened a floodgate of praises from business and political leaders in Arkansas and from around the world. Here is a round-up of comments:
Former President Bill Clinton (D):
Maria Haley was a great public servant, a wonderful person, and my friend for more than thirty years.
When I was Governor of Arkansas, Maria was invaluable in opening foreign markets to our products, recruiting foreign investment in our state, and supporting my work in the National Governors Association. After I became President, I nominated her to the board of the Export Import Bank of the United States. During her service, from 1994 to 1999, the Export Import Bank doubled financing for small business exports.
Before and after her time at the Export Import Bank, she served as Special Assistant to the President and as Deputy Director of the Presidential Personnel Office, helping other qualified and dedicated people serve in important positions.
Maria was really a world citizen, who never lost contact with her native nation, the Philippines, where she served as an adviser to President Gloria Arroyo. Thousands of people in Arkansas, throughout the United States, and in the Philippines, benefited from Maria Haley’s life-long commitment to bring economic opportunities to more people. As we mourn her passing, we also must be very grateful for her life.
Governor Mike Beebe (D):
Maria Haley did more for the State of Arkansas than most people will ever know. Her tireless mission to create and keep jobs in Arkansas was a primary factor in our ability to ride out the recession as well as we have. After living all over the world, Maria made Arkansas her adopted home, and dedicated herself to its betterment for more than 30 years. She was one of the first people I wanted on my team when I became governor, and she will be dearly missed as a friend and colleague.
Tom Kirk, Chairman of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission:
Maria was an inspiration to everyone she came into contact with. She was a woman of the world who brought a unique perspective to economic development, with an absolute laser focus on doing every possible thing she could do to create jobs for the people of Arkansas. We will miss her guidance and her friendship. On behalf of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission I want her family to know the important place she held in so many lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Kay Brockwell, Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and former economic developer in Marion, Arkansas:
When Maria first took her position, her first official duty was to meet with Toyota and learn that Arkansas had lost the assembly plant project to Mississippi. Her second duty was to notify us in Marion. She did so with grace and kindness, and on her way to Little Rock from Washington, she stopped in Marion before she ever got to her office. She brought our community a sense of hope and determination that although we’d lost one battle, we would get right back up and fight for the next project.
Maria has been a huge force for economic growth in our state. Many people enjoy a better standard of living because of her and her team’s hard work. We have lost a great advocate, and we have lost a good friend.
Kirkley Thomas, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives and past-President of the Arkansas Economic Developers:
The state of Arkansas lost a great and dedicated public servant with the passing of Maria Haley. She was so dedicated to improving the quality of life in this state and was very successful in attracting major corporations to invest in Arkansas.
I felt a bond with Maria both personally and professionally because I was serving as President of the Arkansas Economic Developers when she began serving as AEDC Director. That was 2007 and we spent a lot of time together and I saw very quickly here was a person who was going to take AEDC and economic development in Arkansas to a higher level.
With her vast connections nationally and internationally, she was the right person at the right time to lead Arkansas in it’s economic development efforts. We will all reap the rewards of her tireless efforts for many years to come. She will be missed.
Randy Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas:
Putting Maria in that role was one of Mike Beebe’s finest moves. She’ll be big shoes to fill. She took her role very seriously and gave it her best effort. She’s one of those people that put everything she had into what she did, whatever it was. Arkansas, her adopted state, was something she threw her heart and soul into. Maria was one of those exceptional leaders – she gave her best and she expected your best. If you worked for her, you worked.
I think Maria leaves a legacy of service that is really extraordinary and is really a testament to the power of her personality. She leaves a staff in place that is first-rate and is highly capable of sustaining Arkansas’ economic development efforts.
She had a great spirit and will be sorely missed by her legion of friends.
John McFarland, former chairman and president of Baldor Electric Co. in Fort Smith:
McFarland said Maria Haley helped Baldor in the early 1980’s when the company launched its international division. McFarland explained: “She came along and said, ‘Look, we’ll help you. You tell us who you want to meet, and we’ll help you meet them.’ At that point, we were doing nothing in Asia and had no contacts and she helped us get started. … Today, Baldor has offices throughout Asia and has tens of millions of dollars in sales there each year. … But outside of that she was just a nice person. And she never lost what I call the common touch. You know, some people go off to these big jobs in Washington and elsewhere and they lose that. She never did.”
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D):
I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Maria Haley. Maria spent a lifetime building opportunities for others. She served as a great ambassador for Arkansas, and we were fortunate to see many new doors open as a result. I will miss Maria’s resolve, hard work and strong leadership. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Haley family during this difficult time.
Lt. Governor Mark Darr (R):
I want to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Maria Haley, Director of AEDC. She led a distinguished career as a businesswoman and adviser to both President Bill Clinton and President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines. Arkansas was fortunate to have benefited from her leadership. I also want to express sympathy for the family of Jim Pickens former Director of AEDC. He, too, served the state well and did much to make it a better place. Both of these individuals were passionate about Arkansas and did an excellent job promoting and representing our state all over the world.
House Speaker Robert Moore (D):
Like it has for so many others, the news of Maria’s passing has left me sad and heavy-hearted. Though she wasn’t a native Arkansan, she loved our state as her own, and she became one of our most dedicated and effective public servants. Through her visionary leadership at AEDC, she leaves behind a lasting legacy of economic growth and greater opportunity for Arkansans. Maria’s friends and family continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
Congressman Tim Griffin (R):
I am deeply saddened to hear of Maria’s passing. She was kind, professional, tenacious and a tremendous asset to Arkansas. She fought to improve the lives of Arkansans through job creation and brought a laser-like focus on developing economic opportunities to her job. She will be greatly missed.
Talk Business will update this story with more comments as they are received.