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Lee H. Dunlap/Staff

Harrison Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Bob Largent (left) presented a Harrison license tag to Secretary Mike Preston.

“Thank you to Wabash and WestRock for hosting us today. They are both two great companies who continue to invest in this community and hire additional people. These are growth industries that will continue to do well,” Mike Preston, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce said at the Economic Development Leadership Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Governor Hutchinson and Preston were part of a team who returned on Saturday from an economic development trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “We visited Dubai, Abu Dhabi and India. What a great trip and opportunity for us to go out and promote Arkansas.” 

Preston reminded the group the UAE’s wealth is derived from oil, but the county is looking ahead and wanting to diversify.

“We decided to test the market and see if it’s going to be right for Arkansas to drive some investment,” he said. “They have decided they must plan for the future and have some funds to invest in technology, start up companies, IT, and health care. All of these things will be drivers in the next 30 years. They are looking to invest in the U.S. because it’s a safe market for them. We discovered they know about the West Coast and the East Coast, but they didn’t know anything about the heart of the country.”

Preston said, “So the team proceeded to tell them about Arkansas — our agriculture, our IT, our computer science initiatives and all the great things going on in the state. Then we happened to mention, ‘Oh, by the way, did you know we are the home of the world’s largest retailer and the largest protein producing company, Tyson?’”

The hosts thought said it sounded like a great place to do business. Then they asked, how does it differ from doing business in California?

Preston and the Harrison crowd laughed and he said, “We need time to sit down to tell you the differences’ and continued with, ‘You come to Arkansas and we are going to treat your money in a way you haven’t seen before.’”

“Charles Morgan started his company Axion in Arkansas and now his company First Orein is opening an office in Dubai. We participated in a meeting at the same time and the EAU representatives were able to see the technology being developed here in Arkansas,” Preston said.

The Arkansas delegation then proceeded to India. Welspun is a company based in India which has a 1,000 people employed in their Little Rock office. They build pipe for the oil and gas industry. 

“They built the pipe for the Keystone Pipeline which stayed on their lot for about six years until the Trump administration took office. They were finally able to piece it together and have several other projects in the works. We also met with a consulting service from India with offices in Bentonville,” Preston said.

“The Governor and I are working hard every day to sell Arkansas, to raise the platform of our state to new investors and new companies,” he said. “We want them to come and see our state. It’s incumbent upon a community to develop the product. We always say the state does not have the product, the product lies in the local community.”

“What we saw today and the initiatives you are working on — you have hit the ground running,” he said. “I remember speaking at the Chamber luncheon six months ago. I challenged you to work on some things. I can tell you aren’t sitting around waiting on the state to come and help. You decided to be ready and help yourselves.”

“I can tell you said, ‘When the state brings this prospect to us, we are going to be ready to go. We are going to have the site and quality of life ready to go. I would love to point to you guys as examples around the state. I would love to bring some of the Sheiks from Dubai into Harrison and tell them ‘invest your money here. Harrison is doing some things to take it upon themselves to build that product and have that talent pipeline ready. Make your investments into this community.’” 

“I commend Bob and what the team has done,” Preston said. “It’s important that we work as a team. I love this community and every time I come here, I see the growth in what is happening.”

 

Donna has written for the HDT for more than 19 years. When off the clock, she enjoys writing for children, teaching piano lessons and being a pastor's wife. The Braymers have three married sons and daughter-in-laws and 9 grandchildren.

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