Arkansas governor heading to France, Germany trade shows to recruit foreign companies

IndustriesAssociated Press

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that he will leave this weekend for an economic development trip to France and Germany to recruit foreign companies to bring their operations to Arkansas.

The weeklong trip will tout the state's aerospace and steel production industries with stops at the Paris Air Show and the METEC International Metallurgical Trade Fair in Dusseldorf, Germany. Hutchinson, who is leaving Saturday, said he does not expect any immediate economic development announcements when he returns June 19.

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"These are great opportunities to really introduce myself as governor to key executives in the aerospace and steel industry," he said at a meeting with reporters at the Governor's Mansion. "This is foundation building."

He said he plans to meet with officials from at least 17 companies — some he hopes to recruit to Arkansas and others, including France-based Dassault Falcon, who already do business in the state. Dassault Falcon operates a jet completion facility at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock.

Hutchinson said he also will meet with representatives of Lockheed Martin while in Paris. Last month, he called a special session of the Arkansas General Assembly to approve an $87 million incentive package to help the company lure a defense contract to its Camden, Arkansas, facility. The contract to assemble military vehicles to replace Humvees is expected to be awarded this summer.

The governor also plans to meet with software company SAP Inc., headquartered in Walldorf, Germany. Hutchinson, who made mandatory computer science and coding classes a priority for schools in his first legislative session earlier this year, said he met with the company during a separate trip to Silicon Valley.

The European trip is expected to cost the state an estimated $129,000. The governor's office says $87,000 of that will be for trade show booth and event expenses and $42,000 for travel expenses.

Six Arkansas Economic Development Commission staff members also will make the trip.

Hutchinson said the first leg of the trip will include him having a booth at the Paris Air Show, the world's largest aviation and aerospace trade show. Arkansas lists aerospace as its number one export, with more than $1.6 billion in 2014, according to the state Economic Development Commission.