Dan Hendrix said Thursday (May 19) a trade group that began in 2007 has been fortunate to partner with other groups to create an opportunity to educate students on global commerce and trade, plus serve as match makers for companies interested in locating in Arkansas.
“This is a dynamic area of Arkansas,” Hendrix said of northeast Arkansas.
The Arkansas World Trade Center president and CEO spent the day touring several Jonesboro area businesses Thursday (May 19), learning about local manufacturers and seeking to recruit companies for the group. Hendrix said the key of the organization, based through the University of Arkansas, is “prosperity through trade,” with the Rogers-based group working on the issue in Arkansas.
The WTC works with groups like the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the University of Arkansas on various goals including education and trade. Hendrix said the group has helped with trade missions as well as reverse trade missions, in which companies visit the state.
A recent trip to Cuba by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward has already provided dividends by helping with trade, with the country purchasing 4,500 tons of poultry from the state, Hendrix said.
As for other industries, especially those in the region, Hendrix said the lifting of a trade embargo in Cuba could benefit steel companies and local glass companies. The companies may have goods that can help to improve infrastructure in the communist nation, Hendrix said.
Locally, Hendrix said Arkansas also benefits from having key logistical infrastructure like the Arkansas and the Mississippi Rivers, as well as good airports and interstates. The region also benefits from having intermodal facilities as well as access. Hendrix said exporting can be managed by small companies with as little as 10 employees, as long as the supply, demand and the market are there.
According to a leaflet presented at the meeting, the group works with several industry sectors including retail, agriculture, food processing and transportation on trade issues. Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce president Mark Young said the chamber can help companies with research and resources, while groups like the Arkansas World Trade Center can help with major issues.
“Their big point is connecting with companies,” Young said.
As for trade, Young said the issue is key for area companies. In addition to several manufacturers, Jonesboro is home to several food processing companies like Butterball, Nestle and Frito Lay.
“Trade is critical. It is tremendous for our economy,” Young said, noting there are a long list of companies in Jonesboro that exist due to trade. “Much of our job growth is due to existing companies in Jonesboro.”