Arkansas officials, businesses hope to boost exports in 2015

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 128 views 

The business of exports is not without its challenges given regulatory hurdles, rising value of the U.S. dollar and Congressional inaction with respect to Free Trade Agreements proposed with the European Union and Asia Pacific. 

That said, exports remain big business for numerous small to mid-size Arkansas-based companies like Canvas Corp. of Springdale, PowerTechnology of Little Rock and Russellville-based POM. Each of these companies report annual export growth even with the rising U.S. dollar and logistical hurdles primarily resulting from the labor dispute at West Coast ports earlier this year.

William Burgess, founder of PowerTechnology and chairman of the Arkansas District Export Council (ArDEC), said his company is growing exports 26% year-over-year. POM, which makes smart parking meters, experienced a 20% gain in exports last year and officials there are hoping to bump that up to 30% this year.

Christine Meier, founder of Canvas Corp., a company that provides craft supplies to art communities, continues to grew her export business which now covers 25 countries across virtually every continent.

“The world is becoming a smaller place for us as more customers around the globe want to order directly from Canvas Corp. We work through a few distributors for retail accounts but we also enlisted the help of 100 art designers we call the ‘Creative Crew.’ This group of artists are located across the globe from Chili to Canada and from Freedom Island off the coast of South Africa to Russia and Ukraine. This Crew are our ambassadors who show off their art designs using our products on various websites,” Meier said.


She expects her export business to grow about 25% this year as she is close to adding at least six countries to her business clientele. Meier said European countries –Netherlands, Spain, France and England – are among her largest export orders, but business around the globe is growing.

“Our exports are growing each year due to our expansion of social media outreach and the addition of our Creative Crew who help us reach more global customers,” she added.


Meier and the other exporters noted also take part in international trade shows each year to help market their products to new distributors and potential customers.

Burgess said exports out of the Natural State each year are linked to 50,000 jobs, and growing international sales will help add more jobs in towns like Springdale and Russellville.

“Arkansas exports mean more local jobs and that’s good no matter how you look at  it,” Burgess said.

The most recent numbers Burgess could provide show total exports from Arkansas helped contribute to the record-setting value of U.S. goods and services exports in 2013, which reached $2.3 trillion. Burgess said there is a lag in the export reporting, but state exports from July 2013 to July 2014 were $7.2 billion, according to the Office of Trade Analysis. Total exports out of Arkansas grew 36% from the prior-year period. Burgess is confident that exports since that have remained strong based on the intermittent data gleaned from companies and ArDEC members.

“We are a small state and there is plenty of room for more of our manufacturers to benefit from selling their goods abroad, which is the focus of the Arkansas District Export Council,” said chairman Burgess.

By metro area the following results dating back to 2013 illustrate how widespread export volumes are across the state, according to Burgess’ information.
• $2.5 billion: Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway 
• $699 million: Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers
• $498 million: Fort Smith 
• $205 million: Pine Bluff
• $140 million: Jonesboro
• $61 million: Hot Springs

Burgess said ArDEC’s work around the state is aimed at providing small to mid-size companies with the educational tools that can help them overcome fears related to export trade. 

ArDEC’s outreach involves Export University training sessions around the state for nominal charges ($25) for day-long events. He said these sessions include everything an introduction into exporting, document completion, help finding partners abroad and financing. 

The organization also is looking for Arkansas companies exporting goods and services abroad, hoping to honor a few of those efforts at the upcoming Governor’s Award for Excellence in Global Trade event slated for May 19 in Little Rock.

Burgess, encourages exporting companies to apply. The applications are available on the ArDEC website and due by April 24.

“The application is very short and easy to complete, requiring only a one page application and a one page written narrative,” he explained.

ArDEC was established in 1978 as one of 56 District Export Councils nationwide. All council members are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and are tasked to promote and support international trade activities and awareness.