HOT SPRINGS — Even though export sales for the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area dropped about $26.5 million dollars from 2012 to 2013, Jim Fram, president and CEO of The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, says the data still bodes well for the county.
Information released last week from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration this month shows merchandise exports from the Hot Springs MSA totaled $61,466,181 in 2013, The Sentinel-Record reported.
“That speaks very well (for the county). When you’re doing that kind of import-export business it means you’re bringing dollars in from outside and that is the strongest thing you can do for your economy,” Fram said.
“Causing money to come in from outside is what grows and expands your economy,” he said, noting that as companies export more goods and expand their businesses, more jobs are created.
Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig said in a news release that U.S. companies of all sizes are “exploring the possible benefits of exporting, and looking beyond our borders to expand their customer base. More than 95 percent of potential consumers live outside the United States and crave the world-class products offered by American businesses.”
He said the Department of Commerce is dedicated to assisting U.S. firms meet the needs of global consumers while strengthening the economy and supporting jobs throughout the Hot Springs area and the nation.
Key merchandise export categories for the Hot Springs MSA in 2013 included transportation equipment, plastics and rubber products, chemicals, manufactured products, and agricultural products, according to the release. Trading partners in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and NAFTA were the leading destinations for Hot Springs exports.
One of the county’s leading exporters is Keith Smith Co., which provides hatching eggs to several countries.
“The biggest export markets that we send hatching eggs to are Mexico, then Canada, followed by Central America. After that is the Caribbean and then Russia,” said Jim Smith, company president.
“This has been something that has grown significantly since about 2009. We have male and female chickens that produce fertilized hatching eggs, which come into the distribution center in Hot Springs. Then those are shipped out Sunday through Friday,” he said.
As an example, Smith said it takes about three days for a hatching egg to reach a hatchery in central Mexico where the eggs are incubated for about 21 days. When the chicks hatch, they are taken to a grow-out farm where they are kept from six to eight weeks before being sent to market.
“Granted, I’m family and I’ve been here for a while, but the whole process still fascinates me,” he said.
As a by-product of the business, there are many small family type farms around the area that could have ceased to exist due to a lack of opportunity to produce anything, but with a good chicken house and business acumen, those farms are being saved, he said.
“It’s really an interesting story of all these people who are able to continue to live on their family farms in some of these rural communities. They may or may not know it, but they are directly tied to an international market,” Smith said.
Another leading exporter in Garland County is Alliance Rubber, which, according to its website, manufactures 2,200 products and markets them in 28 countries.
“Big export sales mean more revenue, which translates into economic growth and jobs for Arkansas,” Sean Kelly, director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Little Rock, said in the release.
“There is great potential for more exporting, particularly among smaller businesses that have yet to explore their full export potential,” he said.