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Attracting industry.

Recruiters Hope Political Momentum Leads to Further Economic Gains

THE "LOWEST OF THE low" label former President Bush tried to stick Arkansas with during the heat of the presidential debates last fall just won't stick when it comes to economic vitality.

"The Natural State" had the best economic growth in the nation during 1992, according to a recent report by State Policy Research Inc. of Alexandria, Va.

Arkansas registered a 2.33 percent increase, the highest score of any state TABULAR DATA OMITTED on an economic-momentum index.

That performance was powered by a 3.4 percent increase in total employment and an 8.3 percent increase in personal income. Both figures were tops in the nation.

This type of publicity demonstrating past industrial recruiting success is icing on the cake, coming on the heels of Bill Clinton's move from the Governor's Mansion to the White House.

"We think that for the first time ever, the world knows where Arkansas is," says Dave Harrington, executive director of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. "And what Mr. Clinton did here during his time stood up to media scrutiny, and that's good."

Since 1982, when Clinton began his second stint as Arkansas governor, manufacturing companies have announced 619 new plants in Arkansas with projected investments of $2.4 billion. These plants are expected to employ 40,564 people.

Total manufacturing employment in Arkansas has increased more than 19 percent since 1982, compared with a loss of 1.7 percent nationally.

Economic boosters envision using the Clinton years as a springboard to attain new heights.

"When you say you're from Arkansas, people want to talk with you," Harrington says. "We plan to take advantage of Clinton being in the White House as much as possible.

"People look on Arkansas more favorably than they ever have, but companies still have their criteria to meet before they will consider us.

"There's still a long, long way to go in terms of improvement, but the reason we've been able to do more in the 1980s is because we went back to the basics and took care of what we have.

"It's harder to be competitive for an expansion rather than a new plant. The absolute No. 1 is to go back to the wealth-protection process."

Recruiting White-Collar Jobs

Since 1982, established Arkansas industries have announced 2,320 expansions, with a projected investment of $5.9 billion and the creation of 77,839 jobs, according to the AIDC.

Incentives like investment tax credits and enterprise zones are attributed as big reasons for the state's success.

Recent legislation was passed that should help the state become even more competitive, especially when it comes to recruiting white-collar jobs.

"We're looking forward to becoming more pro-active in recruiting corporate headquarters and service centers to Arkansas," says Harrington.

During the last 10 years, Arkansas has increased its efforts to attract companies that export because the potential for long-term growth is greater.

There are 691 exporting facilities that employ more than 122,000 workers in Arkansas. The average hourly wage for companies that export is $8.76 compared with $7.80 for those that do not export.

Marketing Efforts

In July, the AIDC will be unveiling a new advertising campaign coordinated through the state's largest advertising agency, Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods of Little Rock.

The effort will be channeled through billboards, direct mail and local business publications in nine targeted markets: Los Angeles and Southern California; San Francisco, San Jose and Northern California; Seattle; St. Louis; Atlanta; Chicago; Milwaukee; Philadelphia; and New York.

The AIDC spent about $200,000 last year on a campaign highlighting the state's educational improvements, quality management program and work ethic.

Beyond state efforts, cities are becoming more aggressive planning and targeting industrial recruitment. The AIDC is cultivating more of that through its Arkansas Community of Excellence program.

A list of ACE participants includes Pine Bluff, Fayetteville, Harrison, Marmaduke, Paragould, Jonesboro, Searcy, Morrilton, Clarksville, Ozark, Arkadelphia, Gurdon, Hope and Texarkana.

"For years and years and years, we just had cities that waited for the state to bring industry to them," Harrington says. "If you look at strong, focused pro-active development programs, in general you will find a town that isn't growing, you will find a community that is drifting along."

If more communities don't move their feet, they may lose their seat when it comes to attracting new growth and stimulating expansions.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Industry Report; Arkansas' manufacturing industries
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Apr 12, 1993
Words:732
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