Arkansas Economic Development Commission

Three Takeaways from the Industrial Asset Management Council Spring Professional Forum

May 22, 2017

Twice a year, several of us at AEDC make a point to attend the Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC) forums. The most recent event was held last month in Tampa. I’ve had the opportunity to attend quite a few of these over the years, and I wanted to share my thoughts:

The IAMC forums bring the right people together

The forums include both site selection consultants and business leaders from around the country. These are exactly the people we need to be in front of so we can share the Arkansas story. In a world that is increasingly filled with digital connections, there’s just no substitute for face to face interactions. Our relationships with key decision makers are always strengthened when we spend time catching up “live and in person.”

We are particularly proud that four companies that employ Arkansans are represented on the IAMC board of directors, including PepsiCo, BASF Corporation, Weyerhaeuser Company, and General Dynamics.

Global Trends Reflect Arkansas’ Business Growth

One of the featured speakers at the Spring IAMC forum was Peter Zeihan, a global energy, demographic and security expert. He is the author of The Accidental Superpower and The Absent Superpower. Here are few highlights from his talk that made an impression on me:

1) Chinese and other FDI in the US is on the rise, and that is translating into Arkansas jobs. Some recent examples include Conifex, Sun Paper, Ruyi Group and Pet Won Pet Products.

2) Manufacturing is coming back to the US, and the South is leading the way. In fact, with regard to the South’s resurgence, Zeihan said, “They’ve got it figured out.” Examples in Arkansas include Big River Steel, Nucor, Highland Pellets, and Georgia-Pacific to name a few.

Innovation and Hard Work = success, in Uganda or Arkansas

While at the IAMC forum, I also had the unique opportunity to hear Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project, a non-profit organization that reprocesses used soaps from hotels around the United States and converts them into new bars for impoverished nations such as Uganda, Kenya, Haiti and Swaziland. His creativity, innovation and persistence is changing lives.

Kayongo’s story and mission reminded me of West Rock Coffee, a Little Rock-based organization that is investing in Rwanda to positively change the lives of farmers and their families, through honest, direct trade with transparency at every stage in the supply chain, “from crop to cup.” The end result is strong, sustainable growth and a quality product for West Rock’s growing number of customers. It also means jobs, in both Rwanda and Arkansas. We proudly brew West Rock Coffee in our AEDC offices.

In summary, the IAMC professional forums are excellent venues to connect with the right people, to hear from thought leaders, and to be inspired by difference makers. The next event will be in the Fall, and AEDC will be there!


Bentley Story is the Director of Business Development for Arkansas Economic Development Commission. In January 2017, he was named one of the "2017 North America's Top 50 Economic Developers" by Consultant Connect.


Contact Bentley

Bentley Story, Director, Business Development

(501) 682-7384