LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he will leave Saturday for a weeklong international trade mission, his sixth since taking office and his first to include a visit to Israel.
In a news conference at the state Capitol, Hutchinson said he will lead a delegation that will travel to France, Germany and Israel in an effort to strengthen relationships with international companies that do business in Arkansas and encourage them to expand, as well as to open doors with new businesses.
“We will be having over 20 meetings with companies in Europe and Israel, marketing the state of Arkansas,” he said.
Hutchinson previously led trade missions as governor to China and Japan, to Cuba, to China again, and to Europe three times.
The governor said he again will attend the Paris Air Show, where he will meet with companies that have a presence in Arkansas and prospective companies, in addition to meeting with other companies outside of the show.
There are currently 13 French-owned companies with 25 locations in Arkansas, employing 3,700 people.
Hutchinson said the group will travel next to Germany, where it also will meet with companies that have a presence in the state and prospective companies.
Twenty-three German-owned companies operate in 34 locations in Arkansas, employing 1,600 people.
Finally, the group will travel to Israel for two days of business and diplomatic meetings. Hutchinson said Israel has growing markets in the technology and defense sectors, both of which are vital to Arkansas’ economy.
One company based in Israel, Delek, operates a refinery in El Dorado.
A total of 450 international employers have operations in Arkansas, Hutchinson said. He said the fruits of his trade missions have exceeded his expectations.
“Over the last five years, we’ve had a 41 percent increase in foreign direct investment. We’re actually leading the nation in terms of our foreign direct investment and the percentage of growth in that investment,” he said.
Accompanying the governor will be Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston; AEDC Executive Vice President for Global Business Danny Games; AEDC Director of Business Development Bentley Story; Cornelius Schnitzler, director of AEDC’s European Office in Germany; Bill Gossage, deputy chief of staff for external operations with the governor’s office; Alisha Curtis, the governor’s executive assistant and economic development liaison; and first lady Susan Hutchinson. The Arkansas State Police will provide security.
The total cost to the state for the trip is estimated at $85,000, about $80,000 of which will come from AEDC with the remainder coming from state police to cover security costs, according to AEDC spokesman Scott Hardin.