Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his economic development team on Monday (June 19) met with Dassault Falcon Jet officials at the Paris Air Show on the first leg of a European trade mission that includes stops in France, Germany and Israel.
On the first day of the international air show just outside Paris, Dassault offered a demonstration of the company’s new Falcon 8X luxury trijet, which is capable of ultra-long flights of up to 14 hours and a range of 6,450 nautical miles. The French jetmaker’s luxury jet is outfitted at the company’s newly refurbished hanger operations at the Bill and Hillary Clinton International Airport in Little Rock.
In a post on his Twitter feed, Hutchinson noted his meeting with Dassault officials: “Productive meeting with one of Arkansas’ great employers. Dassault makes the Falcon 8X and it was flying high at the air show.” AEDC officials did not immediately respond to a Talk Business & Politics inquiry concerning the meeting the Dassault officials.
In a media availability with reporters last week, Hutchinson said he and AEDC Director Mike Preston would meet with Dassault Falcon executives in Paris to gather more details about the company’s announcement last month to cut up to 6% of its global workforce, which includes the company’s the 2,000-worker completion facility at Little Rock airport. Last week, Hutchinson said he planned to talk with Dassault Falcon officials about how the job cuts will affect the company’s Little Rock operations, noting that the “ebb and flow” of a major industry sometimes layoffs during economic downturns.
Little Rock city and airport officials also made the trip to the Paris air show, which is the largest of its kind in the aerospace and aviation industry. In November 2015, Little Rock officials and Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier christened a $60 million completion facility for the 8X, a sprawling facility called Hanger 14.
The company’s flagship luxury jet entered service last October and is flying in virtually all major business markets, from the Americas to the Middle East and India. Production facilities in France and Little Rock are in full production mode and initial deliveries to customers in Russia and Asia are scheduled in the coming weeks, company officials said in early May following a flight test from Singapore to London.
“The smooth introduction of our new Falcon 8X, combined with its reinforced operational capabilities, suggests it will be a big success in the marketplace,” said Trappier. “This bodes well not only for the future of the program but, most importantly, for the operational benefits it will bring to our customers.”
Held every two years, the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France began Monday and runs through June 25. Hutchinson said the AEDC team will highlight the state’s aerospace sector with prospective companies and leaders of aerospace companies that already have a presence in Arkansas.
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. Meetings outside of the air show have also been scheduled with companies based in France. State economic development officials said there are 13 French-owned companies with 25 locations in Arkansas, employing 3,700 people.
On the second leg of the trade mission, Hutchinson, Preston and the AEDC team will travel to Germany where they will meet with companies that already have a presence in the state while also holding meetings with new prospective companies. Among foreign-based employers doing business in Arkansas, Germany ranks number one in terms of total operations in the state with 23 German-owned companies operating 34 locations, employing 1,600 people.
The last stop on the trip will be Israel, a country with growing markets in the technology and defense sectors, both of which are vital to Arkansas’ economy. This is a new market for Arkansas as no Israeli companies have operations in the state, AEDC officials said.