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Europe Trip Successful In Getting Message Out, Economic Official Says

A recent trip by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and economic development officials sent a clear statement to aerospace and steel companies about the state of Arkansas, a Northeast Arkansas economic development official said Monday.

Clif Chitwood, an official with the Great River Economic Development group in Mississippi County, attended the Paris Air Show with Hutchinson and other business leaders from around the state.

The air show brought aerospace companies together with suppliers in the civilian aviation industry.

The trip to Paris also brought good news Monday afternoon.

Officials with Aerojet Rocketdyne, along with Hutchinson and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, announced the company will be expanding its facility in Calhoun County.

The $18 million expansion will add 85 jobs to the company’s plan in Camden, pushing the number of people at the plant to 630 people.

The company makes solid rocket motors and warheads for the defense industry, officials said.

Chitwood said he attended the London Air Show, which caters to military aviation companies, last year.

While the aerospace industry has faced some problems in the past several years, Chitwood said the competition to land a major aviation company in a state is fierce.

“As soon as I walked in the door, I saw five governors walking around,” Chitwood said.

In most cases, the companies often work to piece together deals with economic development officials to bring a business to a state.

However, Chitwood said company officials very much appreciate being able to talk to governors about different projects.

Taking the trip with Hutchinson was Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Mike Preston.

Chitwood said while former Gov. Mike Beebe worked “extremely good” on economic development issues, he was very appreciative of Hutchinson and Preston taking the trip and visiting with officials.

Chitwood said he believes the trip provides a “strong indicator” of how the Hutchinson administration will work on economic development issues.

During a June 11 meeting with the press in Little Rock, Hutchinson said the goal of the trip was to put Arkansas’ name out in the marketplace.

“The purpose of this (trip) is to market Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “It is very important that the governor of this state competes with other states in bringing business to state and showcasing Arkansas and talking about what we are doing in the steel industry and aero-defense, agriculture, and as well as in the retail world. My hope as governor over the course of the next four years is to not to make just one of these trips, but a number of these trips to various venues to market this state.”

Chitwood said officials from the Little Rock Regional Airport, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, the Arkansas Aeroplex and over a half-dozen private aviation companies in the state were able to meet with companies.

“(The private aviation companies) were searching for customers and had some success to varying degrees,” Chitwood said. “It is like salesmanship. You have to knock on the door, one door at a time.”

Hutchinson also visited the METEC Trade Fair in Dusseldorf, Germany during the trip.

Chitwood said one of the companies based in Germany is SMS Group. The company is currently working with Big River Steel to build a $1.3 billion steel mill near Osceola.

The mill is expected to hire nearly 550 people, officials with Big River Steel said earlier this year.

Officials with Big River Steel announced earlier this month that they toured the SMS manufacturing plant in Germany in late May.

SMS is building the machinery for the mill, which is expected to be completed by July 2016, officials have said.

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