By Arkansas Economic Development Commission
For more than half a century, Arkansas has been a leader in manufacturing. Today, the state is charting a new course as it works to prepare both its current and future workforce to meet the industry’s growing demands in technology. Whether it be relocations or expansions, Arkansas is moving to top of the list of places where companies want to conduct business. What is it about the state that is so attractive, and why do so few companies seem to have Arkansas on their radar?
When Governor Asa Hutchinson took office in January 2015, job development became his number one priority. In fact, on his first day in office, the Governor called six CEOs to sell the benefits of doing business in Arkansas. A year later, one of those companies, Sig Sauer, announced that it’s locating an ammunitions facility in Jacksonville. Having a proactive Governor has been a big part of Arkansas’ success.
His efforts are paying off. The unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 3.8 percent, and 54,000 more Arkansans are working today than at the start of 2015. Arkansas had the largest GDP growth among all states in the first quarter of 2016.
Governor Hutchinson understands the importance education plays in economic development, which is why the governor is leading the way to put Arkansas in the forefront of computer science education. Arkansas became the first state to pass – and fund – a law requiring all public and charter high schools to offer computer science courses. Within one academic year, Arkansas’ public schools saw an increase in enrollment in computer science classes of 260 percent. Of the almost 4,000 students enrolled the first year, more than 550 took more than one course.
This year, Governor Hutchinson is continuing to push his efforts by touring schools throughout the state to encourage Arkansas students to enroll in computer classes. In addition, the state has approved standards for new high-school courses for implementation in schools no later than next school year. The standards will ensure that all Arkansas students will have the skills necessary to “function in an ever-changing technological world.” The courses are computer science with programming/coding emphasis; mobile application development; computer science with networking/hardware emphasis; robotics; computer science with information security emphasis; and advanced placement computer science principles. Also approved are opportunities for independent study and internships in the computer science fields.
And thanks to a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation and teacher training at the annual Advanced Placement Summer Institute hosted by the University of Arkansas Honors College, Arkansas high school students will be among the first in the nation to take a brand new computer class, AP Computer Science Principles.
The state’s skilled workforce is getting the attention of companies who initially knew little about Arkansas – companies like Elyxor Inc., a team of software engineering specialists who recently announced they plan to hire 45 new employees in Central Arkansas and feel that Little Rock is a hidden gem, both in workforce and quality of life.
“There is some great talent here. And I find Little Rock very interesting because Little Rock is, in the technical community, hyperconnected,” said Rob Lentz, Elyxor partner and chief strategy officer. “People want to be part of a place that is changing, and changing for the better. I have observed the change [in Little Rock] over 10 years, and it’s been exciting. It hasn’t happened overnight. And in fact it’s happened slower which, to me, feels like it’s going to be more sustainable. There’s a stronger foundation underneath.”
Sectors such as aerospace and aviation continue to flourish in the state due to Arkansas’s workforce and central location. Arkansas’ total exports in the aerospace and aviation sector totaled more than $1.6 billion in 2014, making it the number one export in the state. Dassault Falcon has had a presence in Arkansas since 1975. The company has undergone several expansions over the years, including a $60 million project announced a year ago.
“Little Rock is a Center of Excellence for Dassault and a facility that has long been at the forefront of aviation technology,” said Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier. “Here, we combine the most advanced digital completion techniques – which Dassault pioneered – with a level hand craftsmanship unrivaled in business aviation. This is where the distinct personality of each Falcon comes to life.”
Why should your business consider Arkansas?
Ease of Doing Business. Under the leadership of Governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas has taken steps to remove many bureaucratic burdens that hinder start-up, relocation and expansion processes. Arkansas Economic Development Commission has established a “single point of contact” system to help prospects do business with ease.
Location and Logistics. Located in the heart of America, Arkansas enjoys quick and easy access to key markets. From Arkansas, you are a day’s drive from two-thirds of the nation’s population. Arkansas also has a modern and improving transportation infrastructure to easily and quickly move products and goods. Whether the desire is to utilize runways, rivers, rails or roads – one can find them all in Arkansas.
Entrepreneurial Spirit. Arkansas’ most famous entrepreneur, Sam Walton, invested $5,000 of his money and borrowed $20,000 from his father-in-law to buy a small retail store in Newport, Arkansas. Today, Walmart is the world’s largest retailer. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in Arkansas. The passion and innovation of Sam Walton is embraced by a new generation of entrepreneurs that find Arkansas to be a great place for realizing a dream.
Low Cost of Doing Business. Arkansas can compete with anyone when it comes to the cost of doing business. Low real estate and construction costs make start-up and relocation opportunities in the state attractive. Also, working in partnership with Entergy and Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, large energy consumers are afforded discounted rates for electricity.
Proactive Governor. If you consider Arkansas as a place to do business, you should expect to receive a phone call from Governor Hutchinson!
Arkansas’ homegrown businesses can attest to the state’s business climate. Arkansas is home to a strong agricultural biosciences sector which includes Riceland Foods, the world’s largest miller and marketer of rice, and Tyson Foods, the world’s largest producer of protein products including chicken, beef and pork. Tyson operates a food-safety laboratory near its Springdale headquarters, which provides the latest technology in food testing and research. Tyson’s Food Safety & Laboratory Services Network performs more than 350,000 tests per month at labs around the country to ensure food safety and quality are a top priority. In addition to microbiological and chemical tests, teams provide testing to monitor the health of the company’s flocks prior to leaving the farms.
Good place. Good people. Good business. Good company. Project managers at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission are eager to speak with you learn more about your company’s needs. Please call 1-800-ARKANSAS or visit www.arkansasedc.com to start your Arkansas success story.
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