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Arkansas Inc. Podcast: 2021 in Review

 December 21, 2021

In this episode of the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, AEDC Deputy Director Clint O'Neal talks with AEDC Business Development Director Bentley Story and AEDC Senior Project Manager Jack Thomas about economic development in Arkansas in 2021, including memorable projects, trends, and more.

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TRANSCRIPT

Jack Thomas:

This is Jack Thomas, Senior Project Manager at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Bentley Story:

This is Bentley Story, the Director of Business Development for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and you're listening to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Narrator:

Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, where we discuss the latest topics and trends in economic development with subject matter experts and influencers from across the nation and around the world.

Clint O'Neal:

Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. This is Clint O'Neal. I serve as Deputy Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. We are recording today's podcast in mid-December of 2021 and as this year draws to a close, it's safe to say it's been a strong year for economic development in Arkansas. There were some significant economic development wins in Arkansas this year from companies representing a diverse list of industries, including food and beverage, timber and forest products, technology, metals, and others. You may recall hearing or reading about some of these announcements, the capital investments being made and the hundreds of new jobs being created. But there's always more to the story. So today we wanted to take some time to revisit some of the year's most memorable projects, share a few behind the scenes stories and recap some important updates from AEDC. Joining me today are two of my colleagues from AEDC who have a unique perspective on economic development in Arkansas because they spend their days and sometimes, their nights and weekends, working with site selection consultants and company executives for months and weeks, leading up to project announcements. Today we have Jack Thomas, Senior Project Manager, making a return trip to the podcast studio, and for the very first time, we have Bentley Story, Director of Business Development joining us here today. Jack and Bentley, welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Jack Thomas:

Thanks Clint.

Bentley Story:

Thanks, Clint.

Jack Thomas:

Welcome Bentley.

Bentley Story:

Hey, absolutely. Cue the audience noise and the cheering, we can add that later.

Clint O'Neal:

So we're going to have a lot of fun today. We're going to talk about projects in 2021. We will not be able to cover them all, but some of the most memorable. Jack, let's start with you. What's one or two of the most memorable projects from this past year?

Jack Thomas:

Yeah, I think there's really two that stick out, one that I think is the most memorable for several reasons, one being, I think because I use their product is the Dansons project down in Hope and the announcement with Dansons was that they would open the country's largest barbecue pellet mill in the United States, creating 50 to 100 jobs in Hope. It's interesting because the whole trend of pellet grills is something that's new. It's something, I think that their tagline is making the average griller, an expert griller and some of the folks here in the studio, turn my eyes to Bentley, could use some of their products but that was a neat project because they Dansons was a company that, to be quite honest, I had never heard of their name, but when I did a little bit of research and found that they were the parent company of Pit Boss, Louisiana Grills, Country Smokers, I think all of us realized that this is somebody that's a big player in the industry.

Jack Thomas:

So when they decided that they wanted to bring the manufacturing of their pellets in-house, that was a project that was super exciting because that's something that if you go to my back porch right now, you'll see some pit boss pellets on the back porch that we use quite a bit.

Clint O'Neal:

So Jack, before you move on to the next one, just to make it clear, you're saying if you and Bentley had a cook-off, you feel pretty confident here.

Jack Thomas:

Oh yeah, no doubt. I think, not a knock to our friends at Dansons, but if we did go old-fashioned and we went just an old traditional smoker, I don't know, Bentley might have the edge just because he's got the edge in age, but I don't know, if you look at some of the new developments, new technology, I think I could take him.

Bentley Story:

Okay. We'll have another podcast scheduled in a couple of weeks to go over the findings from our cook off apparently. So stay tuned for the next round of Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Jack Thomas:

What are we talking about? We're talking about projects. So the Dansons project was cool. That was a fun one for a lot of reasons, I think a little bit of the backstory on that, got a phone call from an industrial realtor out of Dallas, that the three of us know very well, and he said, "Hey, there's this company that's looking around. They're looking for an existing building. They're looking in East Texas. They're looking in North Louisiana and they're looking in South Arkansas, and we think that the Georgia-Pacific building, former Georgia-Pacific building, would be a good fit for them, and so we had a call with them, talk through some of the advantages of doing business here, some of what they would find as far as timber supply and ultimately had them in for a site visit last fall and Hope and had a really good presentation with them.

Jack Thomas:

And Steve Harris brought a few folks locally together to make the case that we are the location for them, and ultimately in February, they announced that they'd be opening the country's largest barbecue pellet mill in Hempstead County.

Bentley Story:

Yeah, I think another cool thing about Dansons was their decision making process. They found an opportunity and really liked the community and jumped on it and said, "Yeah, we're going to make it happen." So it was nice to see that move so quickly and one thing I've noticed from Dansons too is, they're a great community partner. They love the community they're bought in and they've already done a lot of cool things in Hope. So yeah, it's a pretty cool project.

Jack Thomas:

Yeah, that was a good one and then another one that comes to mind is the Montrose project. So the reason that that sticks out is because it was a little bit more traditional and that there was an RFI that was issued, more of a traditional site selection search with a consulting firm that we worked throughout, I guess, dating back, I think the original email that I had was December 15th, which we're recording this on December 14th, that they sent out the RFI and one of the things that I think we saw nationwide was throughout 2020 was this trend of companies getting out of high regulatory environments and moving to states that had less of an impediment on private sector business and that was definitely the case with this project. I guess, like I said, it was December 15th, we received an RFI from a consulting firm out of California that was representing another California company on a project that they were calling Project Jade, ultimately found out that the company behind the project was Montrose Environmental Group and they issued an RFI nationwide site search and ultimately decided that they wanted to focus on three markets where they had subsidiary presence. One of those was in the Northeast. Two of those were in the Southeast, one in Arkansas, one in another state and they ultimately selected North Little Rock as a location to relocate their principal executive offices, relocating 90 jobs, paying an average salary of $96,000. So great project, great jobs, and a good win for central Arkansas.

Clint O'Neal:

A big win for sure. We don't always know who we're competing against, but a project like that, that moves its principal executive office from California to Arkansas is a great story and we expect more of those to come. Bentley, what about a memorable project from you?

Bentley Story:

Yeah, so it's probably a little obvious, but the Trex project, Project Treehouse as it was affectionately known for about a year, was a pretty big project. First off, I doubt they're going to listen to this, but I'll give a shout out to James Reddish and Katherine Holmstrom, they worked tirelessly on that project and did a great job. So yeah, Katherine and James, they put the most time and effort in, I think I've said it before, without them, this project would not have happened. So, but it was the very traditional sense of an economic development project, Jack referred to my age. So in my 15 years, I can say that this was probably one of the more traditional projects that used the site location consultant, Global Location Strategies out of Greenville, South Carolina. It was a great opportunity to get to work with them again and work through this process. They're top notch. The company's top notch, it's a pretty awesome product, but this project was one of those where we felt like we were in the driver's seat, probably halfway through and just had to continue knocking down barriers and overcoming obstacles and issues that would arise, and that's everything from changing to site 1B, almost at the last minute, to working with other outside parties to your infrastructure was there and roads and get moved and rail gets to it. So we literally have to move a road for this project. So, it was great. I was looking back at my calendar earlier today, of 2021, and I noticed a very strong theme, Treehouse meetings throughout the entire year.

Bentley Story:

We had a standing weekly call with the consultant and the company, in addition to the outside calls that would come up after those weekly calls that we would have to figure out what the issue was and how to mitigate it. So a lot of time and effort, but again, it was an awesome project. One project, talk about fun story and nuances, the first site visit we had, we actually procured some of their product and built a deck out on the site. This was actually not the site that they chose, it was actually the site 1A. Built the deck on the site and actually bought a few of the Adirondack chairs, and at the time we had a junior level project manager, Jack Thomas was actually his name, who actually ran around the entire city of Little Rock, moving those chairs around. So as if we had purchased a half a dozen of those chairs, they appeared at the site, they appeared at our office for our meetings, they appeared at the Governor's Mansion for a dinner, and we enlisted Jack to move all of those around.

Bentley Story:

So, I don't think I've ever gotten a chance to say, thank you Jack, but thank you. This project may not have happened without your logistical expertise.

Jack Thomas:

You're welcome. I didn't realize that in the interview process, if you said you had a truck, you got bonus points because you would get tasked to do some of these things, but yeah, that was fun getting to track those down all across town and move them and good surprise for the company and a good touch for sure.

Bentley Story:

Oh yeah. They loved it. Actually, another cool thing during the announcement, we had the deck broken down and actually moved to the announcement location at the Little Rock port. So the Governor, CEO, everyone actually Mayor, stood on that deck to make that announcement, is pretty cool. We actually had the chairs out there too. Jack was on vacation, I think. So I actually had to go get the chairs and move myself. So, but hey, whatever it takes.

Jack Thomas:

Yeah, sure.

Bentley Story:

But yeah, again, awesome project, awesome company, hopefully one day I can get some of their product on my back deck.

So for the Trex project, several hundred million dollar capital investment, over 500 jobs to produce their composite decking, it's a pretty nice product and so for those out there, I'm not a paid representative of their company, but I highly recommend it, great product.

Clint O'Neal:

Excellent. You know what else is a great product? It’s the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. And so James, Katherine, I know you're tuning in, we'd like to say, hello. I'll give a quick overview of a few projects to add on to what Jack and what Bentley mentioned. Fort Smith had a great year. It was actually the first couple of projects that we announced in 2021 were in Fort Smith. We worked with Jonesboro-based Hytrol. Hytrol is a company that manufactures conveyor systems. They've been in Arkansas for quite some time having a long standing presence after moving as a very young company from Wisconsin being recruited by AEDC's Founding Chairman, Winthrop Rockefeller. Hytrol has grown up in Arkansas and when it was time to mitigate risk and looked for a second location, they looked around the country and they ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas on the Western side of the state. It was a great project and they have exceeded their numbers in hiring and even announced a second expansion project just a couple months ago.

Clint O'Neal:

So overall 350 new jobs to the Fort Smith area by a great company with a large investment by Hytrol. Another company that expanded in Fort Smith is Mars Petcare. So over the course of the pandemic, one of the stats that Mars Petcare shared was that 23 million households in the United States have taken on a pet in the time of the pandemic. Those pets get hungry and that results in jobs for Arkansas. Mars Petcare has a large facility in Fort Smith and they decided it was an excellent location to expand in January and then again in September, creating several hundred jobs and a few hundred million dollars and new capital investment, and then a very exciting project in Fort Smith, which is outside of what we typically see as a traditional economic development project is that Fort Smith will be the new home of the Singapore Air Force Squadron. This is estimated to have a $1 billion annual impact on the economy. Within the next years, Ebbing Air National Guard base will house 36 F-35 fighter planes and an F-16 Squadron from the Republic of Singapore. So we welcome the many families that will be moving from Singapore. They've had a few site visits since the time of the announcement. Leading up to the announcement, had a really exciting site visit where we had the opportunity to talk about Arkansas to these executives and members of the Singapore Air Force. We treated this like a traditional site visit, where we partnered very closely with Tim Allen and the Fort Smith chamber of Commerce. As always, Tim's hair was looking great.

Bentley Story:

And if I can also make a recommendation to the Singapore and US Air Force, please do not let Tim Allen anywhere near one of these airplanes. That would be bad for anyone. So I just wanted to put that PSA out there.

Clint O'Neal:

I hear they're pretty expensive, so good piece of advice there. The first night we had dinner in Fort Smith and Governor Hutchinson was able to connect with their top leadership with Colonel Teo. They had a great conversation about doing business in Arkansas, about living in Arkansas and after that night, Secretary Preston sent me a text message, he said, "I know you're coming up the next night for dinner, Colonel Teo and the Governor had a great conversation about golf. The Governor was telling the Colonel about a certain book that he recently read about golf, and so to add an element of customer service, when the Governor gets back tonight, let's have him sign the book and before you head up to Northwest Arkansas tomorrow, you can deliver it and present it at dinner."

Clint O'Neal:

The next night we had dinner at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, to display the art museum, a great asset to the region and Colonel Teo and team were really impressed by a lot of the people that they met, and I think it made the decision a lot easier for them and for the United States Air Force to move forward with that project approval. Next up, we're going to talk about an area of economic development that really had a large impact in 2021 and that's the number of companies that took on existing industrial space across Arkansas. So Bentley, why don't you start us off? Tell us about some of the companies that took on existing buildings, why that was important to us? Why that was important to the companies?

Bentley Story:

Thanks, Clint. Yeah, it's a good point and something we notice pretty quickly on as we're reviewing 2021, the theme of new companies taking vacant space across the state and it's very important in the economic development world. When you have an existing facility that shutters and is vacant, that affects our economy and families, they may have lost their jobs. So we really try to find someone and work with companies to take that vacant space and put more jobs in those facilities. One example is Arning in Clarksville, they took an empty facility there, that was quite honestly a very interesting facility. It was pretty specialized and Arning called us one day and said, "Look, we're thinking about looking in Arkansas, we need expand." Arning is a very cool company. They actually, if you eat at Sonic, then you are pulling under their awnings, when you eat their burgers.

Bentley Story:

So they protect you from the elements when you get your food. So there are a lot of other cool things they do. So Custom Craft Poultry, Dansons is another one that we talked about Hytrol that Clint talked about, Resolute Forest Products in South Arkansas took two closed mills and are in the process of expanding those and reinvesting in those facilities. Vista Outdoors is one of the cool ones as well. They purchased Remington and we were working with them through their purchase and Remington, the previous ownership had gone bankrupt and there were suitors out there and Vista Outdoors was the ultimate party that won the bid to purchase that facility and we've had a great relationship with him over the past year and I know Jack uses a lot of their product quite honestly, probably more than he should. I feel like he should be better shot, but that's good for Remington and Vista. Keep people like Jack using your product and he'll keep that product off the shelves, because we all know he can't shoot very well, and also if you're listening to this, Westrock Coffee has just announced a significant project in Conway. So if you're not listening to this, if it's not being played, then something happened and the project did not announce, but we are very confident that it will, a really great story of existing facility in Conway, a company that had been there for a long time and ultimately shut down the facility, moved production elsewhere, and that facility is now up and running. Clint, you as a resident Conwayin? I'm not sure, how do we...

Clint O'Neal:

Conwegian.

Bentley Story:

Conwegian? Okay. Apologize to Brad Lacy and Jamie Gates, Conwegian. As a local Conwegian, I don't know if you want to touch on what it means to the Conwegians that are listening.

Clint O'Neal:

Well, as you mentioned it, it was certainly a unique building left vacant by Kimberly Clark. And the concern was that it was not going to be able to be filled for quite some time, but Westrock Coffee came along and loved the building. It has a lot of attributes that they find very advantageous. It's a great fit. It's a great story of an Arkansas company that's growing significantly, keeping their presence in central Arkansas and now moving in with several hundred new jobs and taking on that vacant building in Conway. Well, before we move on Jack, we want to give you an opportunity to respond to Bentley's cheap shots. Anything you'd like to say?

Jack Thomas:

Yeah, I think Bentley and I have a good opportunity here in the next couple days to start keeping some tally marks on our shootings. So I think we'll level the playing field.

Bentley Story:

Perfect. We'll cover that on the next podcast. We've already scheduled for the findings from the grill out, grill cooking contest, so perfect.

Clint O'Neal:

All right. So results coming soon from the great Arkansas Duck Hunt of 2021. Okay. Let's talk about some trends in economic development around Arkansas this year. Jack, you want to kick us all here? What are some trends that you've noticed across the board?

Jack Thomas:

I think one of the biggest trends that we saw was the emergence of a lot of timber projects. So a lot of forest product companies that quite honestly, as we saw the timber prices go up for dimension board at Lowe's, Home Depot and stores, a lot of these companies had money on hand to make investment that might have been looking at and accelerate that investment. So we saw a lot of timber projects spent a lot of time in South Arkansas, working those projects. That's one thing we were talking about that I enjoy most about this job is just how dynamic it is. On Monday, you could be in a suit and tie in the Governor's Office, briefing him on a project and then Tuesday, Bentley and I are down in South Arkansas, and I'm in the back of a 4x4 holding on for dear life as we drive through a site.

Jack Thomas:

So we did a good bit of that down in South Arkansas this year and had quite a few good announcements within the forest product sector with Dansons, like we talked about, Drax announced some plans here in Arkansas with their satellite plans that they're constructing. We had an announcement in Hot Springs with FiberPro who manufactures equipment for sawmills. We had Structurlam that opened this summer in Conway, and then most recently here in December with the announcement of Resolute Forest Products down in South Arkansas. So a lot of activity within that sector and we're hopeful that we can have a few more announcements in the pipeline for 2022 with a couple projects that we've worked very hard on throughout 2021.

Clint O'Neal:

Very good. Bentley, anything to add on trends in 2021?

Bentley Story:

Yeah, and this probably doesn't come as a surprise, but the electric vehicle market is blowing and going right now as they say. So it's something...

Clint O'Neal:

Revving up.

Bentley Story:

Revving, oh, wow. okay, good. Quietly revving up. How about that? So yeah, the industry, as we all know, has had some significant announcements across the US and not just economic development announcements, but companies investing billions and billions of dollars. We've seen some success there with some of the earlier stage companies like Canoo announcing their headquarters in Northwest Arkansas, some other companies we continue to work with, and I think there's a great opportunity for Arkansas to position itself, to take advantage of some of these opportunities and as we all know, the Blue Oval project in West Tennessee that was announced, I think there's a great opportunity for the state of Arkansas to get some of the suppliers, downstream and upstream suppliers from Blue Oval and take advantage of some of the sites that we have all across the state and in Eastern Arkansas.

Bentley Story:

So hopefully there'll be more to come on that, but some really good opportunities, I think in the EV and the battery market. One thing, don't want to let get past this is, what's going on in El Dorado and with all of the lithium extraction, things like that with Standard Lithium, doing some really cool things that I think are getting headlines in the market. So that's a another great opportunity in South Arkansas using some of those natural resources that we've got to look in that battery market as well.

Jack Thomas:

I think another thing too Clint, to add to this is we were looking through some of the announcements from 2021 and not that this is unique to this year, but we worked projects all across the state in a lot of communities that we haven't historically had the chance to spend a lot of I'm in and as I was looking through this list, talk about projects all across the state, look at across the River Valley, we had announcements in Russellville, Clarksville over to Ozark and over to Fort Smith in the Delta all the way down to Stuttgart, Northeast Arkansas, Jonesboro, Paragould, rural areas like Flippin and Leola, that we don't historically spend a lot of time in, that we had some good announcements there this year, and then manufacturing expansions in towns like Heber Springs, Huntsville, Pine Bluff and then down the I-30 corridor from Benton to Hot Springs down to Arkadelphia and even all the way down to Hope. So you look at those projects in addition to what we've announced in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas, and really good chance to spend time all across the state.

Bentley Story:

So currently Jack is working on some statewide office that he is running for, a very good job, Jack, for throwing all those out there, I'm impressed that he's running for something folks, you just get ready.

Jack Thomas:

Yeah. No, I'm just wanting to serve on your campaign Bentley.

Clint O'Neal:

Well, a lot of new jobs and in very encouraging trend of fewer zoom meetings, get out traveling, traveling the state, traveling the country, Governor Hutchinson and Secretary Preston had the opportunity to travel to a trade show in Israel not long ago to speak with government officials, company executives. We're certainly looking forward to more of that in 2022. Let's talk a little bit more about some momentum that was going to result in economic growth. A couple of categories here that we'll tackle. The first one is tax cuts. Last week in a special session, the Arkansas legislature came together and passed the largest tax cut in Arkansas's history. Let's talk a little bit about what was passed and how meaningful that's going to be to Arkansans, to companies, to recruiting people here. Any thoughts on that?

Bentley Story:

Yeah, I think anytime you can cut taxes and increase our competitiveness is a win. So a big hat's off to the Governor and the legislature for doing that and doing it the smart way. The Governor and the legislature have passed tax cuts in regular sessions in 2015, 17, 19, was scheduled to do it in 21, we all know what happened in ‘20 and ‘21, so I think took the smart approach, delayed that until we saw, how we weathered the storm and so a big hats off to call in special session and getting quick work done and yeah, it's impressive that we're able to do that in these times while maintaining a balanced budget and I like to tell the story of, I apologize if some of you have heard this, but when I started my career in government, I was in the budget office and we actually got a call from then Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget office that said, "Hey, can you guys put a white paper together on how to balance a state budget?" So they're actually asking the State of Arkansas, how to balance a budget. And so of course, we got to work and didn't tell them all the secrets, but it's not that difficult. But I say that to say, "It's amazing that we've been able to maintain a balanced budget since 1945, I believe, and while we're cutting taxes and maintaining services and things like that." So it's tax cuts combined with all of the other things that are happening are a big win for us.

Jack Thomas:

Yeah. And I think another piece of momentum is what we've talked about with talent attraction. Obviously a lot of the projects that we've worked, one of the most, the biggest driver in a lot of these projects is workforce and not just in Arkansas, but nationwide, are we going to find the number of people that we need, the right kind of people that we need and with some of the efforts that we've done on the talent attraction side, I think we're seeing momentum with that. I saw a piece from the Tax Foundation a few months ago that highlighted Arkansas as a top 10 place for inbound migration in 2020 and I think we've seen that people's values and people's lifestyles have changed and what they prioritize as a place to call home has changed and I think Arkansas is well positioned for that. So I think that's a really good initiative that we embarked on and I think hopefully we'll continue to see the success from that.

Bentley Story:

So Clint, I know the talent recruitment video in process has been a really awesome opportunity that you've taken a lot of time and effort in. So I think it'd be awesome to touch on that.

Clint O'Neal:

Thanks, Bentley. I think this is one of the most important areas of focus in the future of economic development is talent recruitment. There are a lot of companies that need talent, and there are a lot of people that are looking at the priorities of their life, especially for individuals who may work for a company somewhere across the country, maybe they're in a big city and the company says we're going to a remote work policy. A lot of people have been given this opportunity for the first time in their careers to decouple where they work and where they live. So as they make these decisions about where they live, you can decide, do I want to live in an overpriced small apartment in a big city with heavy handed government regulation? Or do I want to live in a beautiful state like Arkansas, where I can afford a bigger house, a bigger yard and have the amenities of the Natural State?

Clint O'Neal:

And so we've launched this campaign called See Why Arkansas in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, and have stood up a landing page arkansas.com/seewhy. It has a cost relocation calculator. You can look at some of these objective measures of the differential in living between various regions of Arkansas and various regions across the country. You can take a look at this video that shows what it's like to live in Arkansas. There's several regional testimonial videos where people talk about their personal story and their personal move to Arkansas. These materials are most effective in the hands of passionate Arkansas, who are recruiting their friends and family from out of state. We've had so many encouraging stories that have not necessarily come directly out of this initiative, but just from hearing people over the course of the last year or two, talk about moving to Arkansas and recruiting their friends and family to Arkansas. It's a very compelling case to move to a beautiful state like Arkansas, with friendly people and it's something that will continue to advocate for as an economic development strategy of recruiting people.

Clint O'Neal:

Next up, lightning round. We've never done this on the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, but just for a little fun as if we've not had fun through this podcast: four questions. Jack and Bentley have not seen these.

Jack Thomas:

Oh boy.

Clint O'Neal:

Short answers. Bentley, you are first. Favorite restaurant in Arkansas?

Bentley Story:

It was Shadden's BBQ in Marvell. It is shut down currently. Oh, the Pantry, I love the Pantry.

Clint O'Neal:

Okay, Jack?

Jack Thomas:

Man. He's so bougie. I would say Beech Street Bistro in Crossett or H.B.'S BAR-B-Q here in Little Rock.

Clint O'Neal:

Okay. We're going lightning. Make it fast. I'm going Bulgogi in Conway.

Bentley Story:

Oh, nice.

Clint O'Neal:

If you decide to switch careers and were not limited by the lack of skills, education, or experience, what would your next move be?

Bentley Story:

I would be Jack's press secretary when he runs and also carry his shotgun shells when he shoots shotguns. No, I think I would, oh man. I think I'd like to farm.

Clint O'Neal:

All right. Jack?

Jack Thomas:

No, I would love to farm as well. I'm definitely not skilled enough to do it. I think, I tell people all the time, my dream job is to teach and coach. So I hope someday I can teach and maybe coach a little football.

Clint O'Neal:

Okay. I'm going professional disc golf player on that one.

Bentley Story:

Oh yes.

Clint O'Neal:

If one of our colleagues was to get a call from Jimmy Fallon to be on his show over Christmas break, who would it be and why?

Bentley Story:

Jack, you take that one.

Jack Thomas:

I'm going Mitch Chandler.

Bentley Story:

Man. The obvious answer is Chris Crane, our film guy, but that's too obvious. I'm going to go, all right, I'll go Chris Crane, our film guy. He's the only one that I've seen actually sing and play guitar, so why not. Chris, get up there and sing with Jimmy.

Clint O'Neal:

Well, he's actually the one that helped write the question so...

Bentley Story:

Well, that was a loaded question then. Oh.

Clint O'Neal:

All right. Last question in the lightning round. If Jeff Bezos showed up at the next AEDC meeting and offered a free ride into space, who would be first in line? Any of our economic development partners?

Jack Thomas:

Hmm. Brad Lacey. He’s always looking for somewhere to go.

Clint O'Neal:

Okay, with that, we'll wrap it up. Our guests today on the Arkansas Inc. Podcast have been Jack Thomas, AEDC Senior Project Manager and Bentley Story, AEDC's Director of Business Development. Bentley, Jack, thanks for joining the podcast today. You've been listening to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. This is Clint O'Neal, Deputy Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For information about AEDC, visit arkansasedc.com or connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Thanks for tuning in.