Dana Deree, president of Arkansas Global Connect, is busy ahead of the Sept. 29 launch of the Conway business.
Deree is off to Texas to work on a deal to provide hundreds of foreign candidates for seasonal jobs in America. Then, he is headed to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and executive branch policymakers.
Deree believes management of the nation’s temporary work visa program is a pillar for resolving the country’s migration crisis and labor shortage.
“We’re not a nonprofit, but we definitely are a company with the public good in mind,” he said.
The core mission of Arkansas Global Connect is to provide American employers with an efficient pipeline of reliable seasonal workers from abroad and to open a door of economic opportunity for job seekers. Agriculture and tourism are fields reporting big demand for seasonal employees.
“The need for these workers is unending,” said Deree, whose resume includes a 20-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
At the end of his diplomatic tour of duty, Deree served as consul general in Honduras and helped improve the employer-seasonal worker process there. His affinity for the Central American nation remains, as does his relationship with government officials here and in Mexico and points south.
Deree hopes to boost the head count of Hondurans obtaining H2 visas to work in America, where they can make better wages then return home to reinvest and have an impact on their local economy.
“The vast majority want to build their lives in their home communities,” Deree said. “They just want to take care of their families. This is an opportunity for years to come, a way to break generational poverty.”
Clearing paperwork through the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security is part of the temporary work visa process.
A partnership with Youngblood & Associates, a McMinnville, Tennessee, firm specializing in immigration law, helps to plow through the red tape to obtain H2 visas for foreign workers.
“So far, so good,” Deree said. “We’ve had really good employees.”
Arkansas Global Connect is recruiting from a database of would-be employers to match with potential employees. The firm also is involved in shepherding candidates through the process of interviewing for a job, reviewing and accepting a work contract on down to getting COVID testing to clear customs.
“We also let them know what their rights are to head off any potential exploitation,” Deree said.
Arkansas Global Connect also helps orient aspiring seasonal workers to understand the rigors of different vocations. Some city folk can be in for a nasty surprise regarding the physical demands of harvesting crops.
“We can’t sugarcoat the hard work,” said Deree, a graduate of Harding University in Searcy. “We want to make sure it’s eyes wide open.”
The son of an immigrant Panamanian mother, Deree has additional motivation to help others touch the promise of America. His financially strapped mother became unable to care for him and his siblings, and he became a ward of the state from the age of 10 until he joined the Marines at 17.
“I’m 30 years removed from poverty now,” Deree said. “I’ve lived the American dream. I want to pay back.”