Gover­nor hails for­eign in­vest­ment

At NLR L’Oreal plant, he says global trade is key for state

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - STEPHEN STEED

Arkansas will con­tinue to wel­come for­eign in­vest­ments that bring jobs to the state, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son said Tues­day as part of a group’s na­tion­wide ef­fort to counter any anti-trade sen­ti­ments that might come from Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Wear­ing white lab coats, safety gog­gles and hair­nets, Hutchin­son and first lady Su­san Hutchin­son took a tour Tues­day morn­ing of the French-owned L’Oreal May­belline Co. plant off In­ter­state 40 in North Lit­tle Rock.

The plant, with some 450 em­ploy­ees, churns out 1 mil­lion cos­met­ics prod­ucts a day. “We make a prod­uct here in Arkansas that is ex­ported to scores of coun­tries across the globe,” Hutchin­son said. “That’s global trade, and Arkansas is lead­ing in that.”

The North Lit­tle Rock cos­met­ics pro­duc­tion plant is the largest in the world and con­trib­utes an es­ti­mated $40 mil­lion to the Arkansas econ­omy each year, the plant’s man­ager, Eric Fox, said. May­belline opened the North Lit­tle Rock plant in 1975. L’Oreal bought May­belline in 1996.

Af­ter the short tour, Hutchin­son de­clared Arkansas “an open- in­vest­ment” state that wel­comes in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies such as L’Oreal. For­eign-owned com­pa­nies have hired 46,400 Arkansans in the past five years, with 60 per­cent of those jobs in man­u­fac­tur­ing, Hutchin­son said.

Jobs cre­ated by such “for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment” have in­creased by 41.5 per­cent in the past five years — the high­est such rate na­tion­ally — com­pared with a 2.6 per­cent in­crease in other pri­vate­sec­tor em­ploy­ment, Hutchin­son said.

While some 450 for­eign com­pa­nies have cre­ated jobs in the state for decades, Hutchin­son said sign­ing an “open- in­vest­ment pol­icy” would strengthen ties with those com­pa­nies and im­prove the state’s in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing ef­forts else­where.

For­eign in­vest­ment “is not nec­es­sar­ily a new is­sue,” Hutchin­son told re­porters later. But com­pa­nies such as L’Oreal are “ner­vous” about pos­si­ble changes by Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion in U.S. trade pol­icy,

he said.

“They’re ner­vous about what the fu­ture of na­tional pol­icy on trade is go­ing to be,” he said. “Are we go­ing to set up tar­iffs? Are we go­ing to con­tinue with an open trad­ing pol­icy and an em­pha­sis on global trade? I con­tin­u­ally want to give that as­sur­ance to them, that Arkansas is open for busi­ness, that we wel­come for­eign in­vest­ment.”

Hutchin­son is the fourth gover­nor to sign such a state­ment, a cam­paign be­ing pushed by the pri­vately run Or­ga­ni­za­tion for In­ter­na­tional In­vest­ment in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Gov­er­nors of Ken­tucky, New Hamp­shire and Penn­syl­va­nia have signed sim­i­lar

state­ments this year, said Nancy McLer­non, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent and chief

ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, who joined Hutchin­son at the L’Oreal plant.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion has more than 180 for­eign com­pa­nies as mem­bers, in­clud­ing three dozen with op­er­a­tions in Arkansas.

No gover­nor has re­fused to sign the open-in­vest­ment state­ment, and the group is work­ing now with 15 other gov­er­nors on fu­ture state­ments, McLer­non said.

She also said it’s im­por­tant for the or­ga­ni­za­tion to have events like the one at the L’Oreal plant to show work­ers the im­por­tance of global in­vest­ment and how it af­fects them.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN­JAMIN KRAIN

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son tours the L’Oreal May­belline man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­ity in North Lit­tle Rock on Tues­day be­fore declar­ing Arkansas “an open-in­vest­ment” state that wel­comes in­ter­na­tional firms.

AP

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump (left) and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping meet at the G-20 Sum­mit in Ham­burg, Ger­many, on July 8. U.S. and Chi­nese trade of­fi­cials are sched­uled to meet to­day.

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