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Watson attends SHOT Show

By submitted, 01/28/19 8:29 AM

LITTLE ROCK – For the fourth year in a row, I attended the SHOT Show to meet leaders of companies in the firearms industry who are thinking of expanding or relocating. The SHOT Show is the largest outdoor show of its kind in North America.
Arkansas would be a perfect fit for many of the more than 2,000 exhibitors and material suppliers that have set up a booth along the 12 miles of aisles at the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show.
Recruiting trips such as this one involve planning and outreach before we ever leave Arkansas. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission identified companies that were considering expansion or a move.
As a result of that advance work, I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with executives from multiple companies and made my sales pitch for them to consider Arkansas for their next expansion project.
Economic development benefits the entire state, and our two biggest cities supported us by sending Jay Chesshir, president of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, and Tim Allen, president of the Fort Smith chamber.
The Natural State was well represented at the SHOT Show. It was a good place to see an enormous variety of Arkansas-made outdoor products all under one roof.
Arkansas companies manufacture high-dollar firearms and air guns a teenager can afford; bows and arrows; knives and the stones to sharpen them; boats, rods, reels, and fishing lures; and whatever clothing your outdoor sport requires.
I had the pleasure of spending time with the leaders of companies that are already in Arkansas, including Sig Sauer. Sig Sauer was my first economic-development success as governor.
On my first day in office, I called the CEO and encouraged him to consider moving his ammunition-manufacturing plant to Jacksonville. A little more than two years later, they were open for business.
I also had the chance to visit with the booth of Dan’s Whetstone Company. Dan has a small business, and we need to support them also. After a fire destroyed his first factory in Royal, and the company outgrew its second home near Hot Springs, Dan bought a chicken house in Pearcy, which is where the company has been since 2004.
The other companies with operations in Arkansas were Remington, Gamo, Umarex, Thermold, Night Hawk, Pradco, Mahco Outdoors, Smith’s Consumer, and RH Preyda.
When we discuss economic development, we talk in terms of the number of jobs created and the amount of money a company will invest in our economy. But it’s not about the numbers. The point of growing our economy is to improve the quality of life for every Arkansan. We do that by providing opportunities to find good-paying and satisfying employment that allows families to pursue a meaningful life. That is my goal every time I telephone a CEO or board a plane to recruit new business.