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Why China is bringing its companies and new jobs to Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson

  • Arkansas is among the top five states in the nation ranked by foreign direct investment.
  • Four recent deals with Chinese companies total $1.4 billion in investment and roughly 1,500 jobs.
  • Arkansas was the first state in the US to make computer coding mandatory in all public and charter schools.

My aim as governor of Arkansas is to create a business-friendly state, and we have greatly improved the environment since I became governor in 2015.

One of my priorities was to streamline the start-up, relocation and expansion process for business, which we tackled by removing administrative and regulatory obstacles that industry and business often consider unnecessarily burdensome.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson with Qiu Yafu, chairman of Shandong Ruyi Group, a textile company that created 800 additional jobs in Forrest City.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson with Qiu Yafu, chairman of Shandong Ruyi Group, a textile company that created 800 additional jobs in Forrest City.

With economic stability and economic development as two of my goals, I put forth four initiatives that would make business in Arkansas easier to conduct:

  • Lowered income-tax rates for lower- and middle-class Arkansans.
  • Improved job-skill training to beef up our workforce and make it more attractive to companies.
  • Required high schools to offer courses in computer science.
  • Removed burdensome regulations on business start-up and expansion.

We have made great strides.

In 2015, I signed into law the largest reduction in the income-tax rate in state history. In 2016 I signed another $50 million income-tax cut for Arkansans.

Our state has implemented a workforce initiative that includes private-public partnerships with industries, two-year colleges, technical schools and high schools through the ArFuture Grants. This initiative bolsters our state's workforce by covering all tuition and mandatory fees at two-year colleges and technical schools for students pursuing a variety of in-demand fields like computer science and welding. This program will enable us to increase access to higher education for Arkansans, while also ensuring that we are creating a talent pool that is specifically tailored to the demands of Arkansas industry.

In 2015, I signed into law a requirement that all public and charter schools offer classes in computer coding. Arkansas was the first state in the nation with this mandate. Wired magazine published an article titled, "So Arkansas Is Leading the Learn to Code Movement."

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Our most recent business-friendly achievement came in the 91st General Assembly, which approved the reduction of the sales tax on replacement parts in the manufacturing sector.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission has streamlined the site-selection process by establishing a single point of contact for a business considering a move to Arkansas.

"It's frustrating to be passed from person to person when trying to conduct business, and we certainly recognize," said Mike Preston, executive director of AEDC. "Our Business Development Team stays current on incentive programs, research and development, investment options and other questions so that team members can be the single point of contact for businesses, no matter the issue."

The ease of doing business in Arkansas has produced some of the best job-creation reports over the past two years in the state's history. More than 70,200 more Arkansans are employed now than when I took office. The state's unemployment rate continues to hit record lows, most recently 3.5 percent statewide.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
"Companies that have recently announced plans to locate or expand in the state include high-profile Chinese companies ...  These four companies' investment in the state will total more than $1.4 billion."

Arkansas is among the top five states in the nation to attract foreign direct investment over the past five years. Companies that have recently announced plans to locate or expand in the state include high-profile Chinese companies such as Shandong Ruyi Technology (800 new jobs in Forrest City), Sun Paper (250 new jobs in Clark County), Tianyuan Garments (400 new jobs in Little Rock) and Pet Won Pet Products (70 new jobs in Danville). These four companies' investment in the state will total more than $1.4 billion.

In April, Sediver, a French company that manufactures toughened-glass insulators for high-voltage power lines, opened a plant in West Helena. Closer to home, investors in the timber industry have reopened a saw mill in Glenwood that closed down in 2010.

Arkansas also is quickly developing a reputation as a technology hub. Elyxor, a software engineering company, considered locating in major markets such as Boston and Seattle but ultimately chose North Little Rock, Arkansas, because of the talent of the local workforce.

By Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2017 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.

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