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Arkansas takes care of investors

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-05-21 07:00

As the US and China sort out their trade issues, for Arkansas, business with China goes on as usual, as indicated by a recent trip state officials made to China and the progress of ongoing projects.

Since taking office in 2015, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has visited China every year to nurture his state's relationship with China and entice Chinese investors.

The efforts have paid off: In recent years, Arkansas has landed five investment projects from China, totaling more than $2 billion with the potential for 1,600 jobs.

Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), accompanied the governor on each of his three trips.

This year, Preston led a small team without the governor in early May to continue the tradition of an annual visit to China.

"This is the fourth trip for me in the last three years and the first time that Governor Hutchinson could not go because he is in the middle of a re-election campaign," Preston told China Daily from Little Rock.

"He wanted me to go to make sure we continue to build our relationship with China based on our past success of recruiting companies from China to Arkansas," he added.

The small delegation visited Shandong's Sun Paper, which announced last year the largest Chinese project in Arkansas — a $1.8 billion plant producing linerboard for paper boxes utilizing the state's substantial timber resources.

They visited Hefei Risever Machinery in Hefei which is investing $20 million in Jonesboro, to set up North American plants.

"[Risever] makes counterweights for large production equipment and supplies Caterpillar and other large industrial manufacturers. It's a family-run business, and the two sons have begun taking over in recent years. One son already bought a home in Jonesboro," Preston said.

Risever is expected to break ground in late June. Once completed, the company will bring 160 jobs to Jonesboro.

In Suzhou, Preston and his team toured Tianyuan Garments whose Arkansas plant is expected to go into production this year. Tianyuan is developing a fully automated clothing production line in Little Rock.

"China is a big country. It takes a while to get around. Going to Tianyuan [from Shanghai] took two hours by train, a two-hour car ride, a three-hour tour, then another four hours back, made a long day, but it was a productive trip," Preston said.

"We followed up with those companies and saw how the progress was coming along, and offered what we could do to assist."

In Shanghai, Preston made a stop at the US Consulate. The state of Arkansas wants to make sure that visas will be issued so the Chinese companies can send workers over to Arkansas to train US workers.

"We got a lot of other companies interested in us. They want to come to know about Arkansas," he said.

Contact the writer at mayzhou@chinadailyusa.com

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