Global Trade 101: Q&A with Arkansas Export Officials on Eve of Governor's Awards Banquet

by Mark Carter  on Monday, May. 21, 2012 10:22 am  

The third-annual Governor's Awards for Excellence in Global Trade will be held Wednesday over lunch at the Governor's Mansion.

The event recognizes small- to medium-sized businesses in the state that export products to foreign countries. It will be hosted, as it always is, by Gov. Mike Beebe, and this year's guest speaker is Dave Hudson, director of marketing for UPS. asked Graham Catlett, Little Rock lawyer and chairman of the Arkansas District Export Council (DEC), and Len Frey, Governor's Awards program chair, dean of the college of business at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and DEC member, about the state of exporting in Arkansas. Since 2005, exports from Arkansas companies are up 30 percent, from $3.9 billion to $5.6 billion.

AB: How has the export environment improved in Arkansas in recent years?

Catlett: More Arkansas companies are looking at exporting as a way to improve their bottom lines and create jobs. The export environment is a key factor. The Arkansas District Export Council (DEC), a group of volunteer business professionals who are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for four-year terms, are helping to create a greater awareness about the importance of exporting.

Our DEC members, all involved in international trade themselves, have committed to sharing their expertise and hard earned knowledge with companies that are interested in learning more about the export process. In 2012, the DEC launched "Export University," which is based on a model adopted by DEC all over the country to educate and inform companies on many of the aspects of the export process - both at introductory and advanced levels.

For example, introductory sessions on general topics such as marketing, how to get paid, and logistics are part of the 101 Certificate program. More advanced topics on a specific market or issue are considered 201 and 301 levels.   

The DEC has partnered with the U.S. Export Assistance Center, the Arkansas Small Business Development & Technology Centers, and FedEx on this effort, and our inaugural session was well received.  We plan to stage the 101 Certificate program sometime in the fall and are planning 201 sessions as well. 

AB: How important is it for the state to recognize exporters in such a way as the Governor's Awards?

Frey: It has a critical impact because events such as these generate press throughout the state. Companies read about companies they know are succeeding in overseas markets and become interested in exporting too. 

A majority of the states have some type of export excellence recognition programs because of the tremendous economic impact that exporting has on profitability, job retention and creation, which ultimately, impact a state's tax base. It was an important signal when Gov. Beebe agreed to host the awards program in cooperation with the Arkansas District Export Council, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the U.S. Export Assistance Center. 

Today, three years after it was created, this business luncheon represents the largest international trade networking event in the state. From the first awards program, it has been a standing-room-only event that attracts the top tier businesses and business leaders from all over Arkansas. 



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