The economy is picking up momentum. Look no further than the headlines in recent Arkansas publications; "Home sales in Arkansas surge 13.6% in April" wrote the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and "Northwest Arkansas Sees Strongest Metro Job Improvements" touted Talk Business. However there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before we reach the light at the end of this recession tunnel.
A recent Gallup poll shows 86 percent of Americans want Washington to address jobs and the economy and with good reason. Although Arkansas unemployment rates dropped a tenth of a percent from March to April and is now at 7.1 percent, the reality is this number doesn’t reflect the true number of unemployed in the state. In April, 13.4 percent was a more accurate number. This reflects the number of unemployed in addition to the people who have given up looking for a job. In April alone, nearly 280,000 Americans were forced into part-time employment and weekly take-home pay shrank.
City, county, state and federal leaders have all been dedicated to working together to attract businesses to our state in order to provide jobs for hardworking Arkansans. We’re continuing the commitment to expanding job opportunities.
At a recent question and answer session with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, I discussed issues being debated in Washington and how they impact job creation and economic opportunities in Arkansas.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created if we take steps to increase our exports. Last year we supported, and President Obama signed free-trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia. More markets remain to be opened. I’ve long been a supporter of changing U.S. policies toward Cuba. We need to open up trade with this country and we need to expand trade with African nations. This is why I helped introduce a bill to accomplish this goal. Arkansas agriculture products have a lot to gain because of our state’s location to waterways like the Mississippi River.
We can see the results of the work that is done to advance economic development in Arkansas. Decisions by two big companies are laying the groundwork for additional jobs in central Arkansas. Last week Dassault Falcon Jet announced a $60 million expansion to its Little Rock facility. The week before Remington Arm. Co. also announced a $32 million expansion to its ammunition plant in Lonoke. These are investments in Arkansas and its workforce that we can all be excited about. This is great news that will help create jobs that Arkansans depend on to feed their families, pay their bills and help communities grow.
We need to continue creating an economic atmosphere that will encourage businesses to grow, hire and locate to Arkansas. Job creation and protection is something all elected leaders must focus on because it’s what the people of Arkansas want and need. Businesses play a crucial role in the development and growth of our economy and I will continue to promote policies that help advance economic development and job creation.