Fort Smith’s pro-gun business environment may prove valuable for Arkansas this summer when the Arkansas Economic Development Commission goes to Europe for business recruitment.
The commission will attend the Farnborough International Air Show in Paris, France, July 13-15 in association with the Arkansas Aerospace Alliance, the Arkansas World Trade Center and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
While the aerospace industry, with Arkansas headliner Dassault Falcon, is one of the main orders of business on the trip, the groups also intends to make connections with European weapons manufacturers.
With companies like Thermold Magazines, Umarex USA and Walther Arms in Fort Smith, AEDC Director Grant Tennille said Thursday at the Greenwood City Hall that he expects to see more local development in the arms sector for Arkansas.
"The Czech Republic, it turns out, is a hotbed of manufacturing for firearms accessories," Tennille said. "They are small but quickly growing and capturing a lot of market share in the United States. We’re looking for opportunities for them to begin manufacturing over here."
Czech Republic native Linka Horakova, the commission’s European project manager, will help make those connections for Arkansas, Tennille added.
"Thermold and the others are resources that make the state more attractive to arms manufacturers," AEDC Deputy Director Becky Campbell said.
Thursday marked the first time the AEDC has held its monthly meeting in Greenwood. On Wednesday, commissioners and staff were given a tour of Greenwood and taken to dinner at Chateau on the Greens.
"It gives the commission a good idea of what’s going on here and that we’re ready for growth," said Doug Kinslow, director of the Greenwood Parks and Recreation Department.
With four commissioners from each of the four congressional districts, the commission meets in a different part of the state each month. Upcoming meetings will be in Alma and Hot Springs.
"It was a fantastic community to visit, and a great place to open up our hearing and visits for 2014," AEDC Chairman Gene Hill said. "We were very much impressed with everything that we saw. Everything that’s been set up is a first-class deal."
While much of the commission’s meeting was closed to the public, a public briefing indicated commissioners are working with Keith Scheffler of plastic product manufacturer Creative Things in Gentry as part of the Walmart pledge to bring $50 billion in manufacturing back to the United States.
"Keith has a long history as a vendor for Walmart," Tennille said. "If it’s made out of plastic, he makes it. He’s actually winning products back from Chinese companies, Taiwanese companies and Vietnamese companies."
Other matters of business the commission addressed were a redemption of an outstanding bond originally financed with Art-Exchange in Hot Springs, and a bond guarantee of $1.6 million to Pel-Freeze Holdings in Rogers.