Editor’s note: Commentary from the office of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Sometimes being Governor of Arkansas requires being a salesman of sorts. Next week, I leave home to pitch Arkansas to international business leaders. Luckily, I have an incredible product to sell. That’s the Natural State, with all it has to offer new and expanding businesses.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll be on the road again to promote and sell Arkansas to the world. Mike Preston, Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and I will be leading a trade mission to Japan and China.
This will be my third major trade mission out of the country since taking office. I’ve already been to Europe and Cuba. While in Europe, we focused on the aerospace and steel industries at trade shows in France and Germany. In Cuba, our focus was on creating trade opportunities for poultry, rice and agricultural products.
In Asia, our purpose is twofold: First, we want to recruit new industry to Arkansas. I’ll be meeting with more than a dozen companies and contacting government officials in both countries.
Second, we want to visit with companies that already have investments in the United States — particularly in Arkansas.
There are 18 Japanese companies located in Arkansas, and they employ more than 5,400 people. Nucor-Yamato Steel and Rheem Manufacturing are two of the largest foreign-owned companies in our state. I want to ensure that these and other international companies have what they need to stay and grow in our state.
In China, we will visit several provinces, meet with government officials and reach out to businesses. I especially want to make the connection between Arkansas and one of China’s biggest retail companies — Walmart.
I think we have failed to truly capitalize on that connection. As Walmart’s international headquarters, Arkansas has a home-field edge over other states — and we should take advantage of that. In recent years, Walmart has put an emphasis on returning manufacturing to the United States. For those Chinese companies looking to do business with Walmart, there’s no better place to locate than right here in Arkansas.
It is important to recognize that business is conducted differently in China than here in the United States. To a certain extent, businesses in China are still centrally controlled by the government. This is why it is so vital to meet these leaders face-to-face and establish relationships on Asian soil. It is imperative that we get the word out about Arkansas. And when the word comes directly from the state’s chief executive, it gets a little more attention.
This trade mission will produce results over time. Doing business in Arkansas is a concept that I can sell all day, anywhere.