Hutchinson leads delegation to Paris Air Show, German steel conference

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 308 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will depart Saturday for the world’s largest airshow in Paris and a side trip to Germany where he and a delegation of state economic development and business officials hope to make new aerospace and steel industry contacts, and bring back new jobs prospects back to Arkansas.

“The purpose of this (trip) is to market Arkansas,” Hutchinson told a roomful of reporters at a “pen and pad” meeting on Thursday at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. “It is very important that the governor of this state competes with other states in bringing business to state and showcasing Arkansas and talking about what we are doing in the steel industry and aero-defense, agriculture, and as well as in the retail world.”

“My hope as governor over the course of the next four years is to not to make just one of these trips, but a number of these trips to various venues to market this state.”

In a question from Talk Business & Politics, Hutchinson said there are some possible economic development prospects that will be discussed with business executives during the upcoming European trade mission.

“There are some opportunities close at hand that this trip can bear upon, as well as simply planting seeds and cultivating the soil for future developments."
He added that it may be six to eight years down the road before some of these contacts bear fruit, offering that he is benefitting now from past economic development projects started by his predecessor, former Gov. Mike Beebe.

Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said Gov. Hutchinson will work the Arkansas booth during the first two days of Paris show, and then make a detour to Germany on June 16 to meet with prospective steel industry executives and companies at the 9th Metec International Metallurgical Technology Trade Fair in Düsseldorf.

At both trade shows in France and Germany, Gov. Hutchinson said his staff has scheduled 17 meetings with business prospects and executives at companies that have operations in Arkansas, including Dessault Falcon, Lockheed Martin and a number of other French that have large workforces across the state.

Hutchinson said he also plans to have an extended conversation with executives at software and technology giant SAP Inc., which is headquartered in Wallforf, Germany. Hutchinson said he previously meet with SAP executives in the U.S. during a recent trip to Silicon Valley.

“These are great opportunities to really introduce myself as governor to key executives in the aerospace and steel industry,” he said. “This gives the state of Arkansas a great opportunity, first to expand our companies here and then obviously to recruit and showcase Arkansas to other prospects.”

Hardin said the Arkansas delegation will include the AEDC staff and representatives from both the private and public sector who will man “the Arkansas booth,” sponsored by the Arkansas Aerospace and Defense Alliance and State Chamber of Commerce.

Although the air show at the tarmac of Paris-Le Bourget Airport runs from June 15-21, the first three four days are set aside only for trade show visitors and business participants. From June 19-21, the show is then opened up to the public.

“The other members of the Arkansas delegation will remain in Paris to work the show,” Hardin said. “A couple members of AEDC’s staff will travel with the Governor to Germany.”

While the Aerospace Alliance and State Chamber are sponsoring the trip, no representatives from those organizations will travel to Paris. However, officials from World Trade Center of Arkansas, the Arkansas Aeroplex and the state two largest airports (Bill and Hillary Clinton National and Northwest Arkansas Regional) will be part of the official delegation.

The AEDC team will include Executive Director Mike Preston; Danny Games, deputy director of global business; Bentley Story, director of business development; Lenka Horakova, director of European business development; Shelly Short, director of marketing; and Robin Pelton, sector manager of aerospace and defense.

Also making the trip are representatives from Springdale-based nanotechnology manufacturer NanoMech of Springdale, and Galley Support Innovations, a Sherwood-based manufacturer that makes locks, hinges, latches and other interior parts for Dassault Falcon, Gulfstream and other luxury aircraft builders.

Hardin said two members of AEDC’s staff left for Paris on Wednesday to do some prep work in advance of the Governor’s arrival. The rest of the Arkansas delegation is expected to make the half-day trip Friday or Saturday.

Dassault, based in Paris, has been a major sponsor and participant over the history of the European air show. The company’s largest industrial facility is located at the Little Rock Airport, where the French luxury jet maker operates its main completion facility center for all Falcon jets worldwide, and the company-owned Service Center that is dedicated solely to Falcon customers.

Over the past three years, the French aerospace giant has spent more than $60 million in new construction and the refurbishment of existing facilities. Besides Dassault, other industry giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, FedEx and Airbus are also expected to have a major presence at the airshow that will span 183 acres.

Lockheed Martin is in the running to build the military’s next-generation, armored tactical vehicle for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps at its industrial side in Camden. That contract, worth $30 billion over the next 25 years, is expected to be announced in July.

In a recent interview with Talk Business & Politics, Preston said having a booth presence at the event should be helpful in landing more business in state.

“The aerospace sector is Arkansas’ number one export, totaling more than $1.62 billion in 2014,” Hardin said. “This is a statistic the Arkansas delegation will mention many times while talking to prospects at the Paris Air Show.”

According to Paris Air Show officials, more than 2,260 exhibitors from 47 countries will attend this year’s show. Also, in efforts to promote the aerospace industry to youth across the global, the world finals of the Rocketry Challenge will take place on June 19 at the airshow.

The competition consists of shooting mini-rockets holding two raw eggs at least 230 meters up in the air, and slowing the descent so the egg won’t break on the landing, officials said. Participants will be judged by an international panel on the quality of the rocket, the final state of their eggs and their project presentation.

In 2013, the last year for the event, there were more than 7,000 organized business meetings held at the event as nearly 140,000 trade officials from every continent were part of the exhibition. There were also more than 3,000 accredited journalists that made the trip to Paris two years ago.

This year’s show in Paris is focused on recruiting and training young people for jobs in the aerospace industry, something Gov. Hutchinson has also spotlighted during the first six months of his administration.

According to Angelo Fiataruolo, president of KCAC Aviation in Olathe, Kan., the general aviation business in the U.S. is responsible for 1.1 million jobs and $219 billion in output, “including direct, indirect, induced, and enabled impact. Arkansas ranks in the top 10 in total output impact per capita with $989 and a total output impact of $2.9 billion, he said.

Fiataruolo said events such as the International Paris Air Show serve as excellent forums to meet high-level executives in both the business aircraft manufacturing and aerospace component manufacturing industries.

“These events provide an opportunity to network efficiently, as they attract global executives industry-wide,” said the aerospace consultant and executive. “In the United States, business aviation and aerospace remains one of the strongest sectors for high-paying manufacturing jobs, whether it be a foreign company or a U.S. based company like Piper Aircraft, as well as increasing state exports.”

The Metec steel trade in Germany will last from June 16-20. Nearly 2,000 exhibitors are expected at the Düsseldorf steel conference, where officials expect approximately 100,000 visitors from 83 nations to attend the industrial trade show.