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Arkansas Inc. Podcast: World Trade Center Arkansas CEO Denise Thomas

 April 14, 2022

In this episode of the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, World Trade Center Arkansas CEO Denise Thomas discusses trade, foreign direct investment, and tourism opportunities in Arkansas.

 

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TRANSCRIPT

Denise Thomas:

This is Denise Thomas, CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas. 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.

Clark Cogbill:

Welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast. This is Clark Cogbill. I'm director of marketing for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. We are recording today's episode from the studios of Lucky Dog Audio in downtown Little Rock.

Clark Cogbill:

According to the International Trade Administration, 95% of the world's consumers are outside of the United States. International trade is certainly a major part of the Arkansas economy. Close to 200 foreign-owned firms with hundreds of locations across the state employ about 36,000 Arkansans. A couple of episodes back, I interviewed the AEDC International Business Development team, and we got some inside baseball on how they foster international business relationships and keep Arkansas on the radar screen among companies across the world. Today on the Arkansas Inc. Podcast, we're going to get another perspective on international trade from a true expert on the topic.

Clark Cogbill:

I'm thrilled to interview our guest today, Denise Thomas, CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas. Denise was named CEO in July of 2021, after serving as a longtime trade director of World Trade Center Arkansas, in that role, she oversaw trade in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Clark Cogbill:

Denise is a California native, and she began her economic development career in 1998, in Florida at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. There, she worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration to create a networking hub for entrepreneurs that combined several chambers of commerce and small business development organizations, creating a one stop shop for entrepreneurs in one location. She was later appointed to oversee the Jacksonville Chamber's division of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She moved to Arkansas in 2002 and joined Walmart as a senior recruiter. She worked closely with hiring managers to build strategic teams in diverse markets, both domestically and internationally. Denise then joined World Trade Center Arkansas five years later, becoming one of earliest staff members. And we're certainly glad she did.

Clark Cogbill:

Denise Thomas, welcome to the Arkansas Inc. Podcast.

Denise Thomas:

Well, thank you so much for having me, Clark. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you, talk to your audience, and share a few thoughts about the World Trade Center.

Clark Cogbill:

Yeah, we're excited you're here. You happen to be in town today for the Arkansas Economic Development Foundation luncheon. And so, just less than a mile away. So glad you could be in the studio to talk to us in person today.

Denise Thomas:

That was a wonderful event, by the way. I really enjoyed myself.

Clark Cogbill:

It was a good event. So Denise, I'd like to start by asking you just to give us an overview of World Trade Center Arkansas. What does the organization do?

Denise Thomas:

Well, the World Trade Center Arkansas facilitates bilateral trade and exchange for all Arkansas companies. We support primarily small businesses, but we do support larger corporations in their initiatives and things that they want to do, so the movement of goods in or out, the movement of talent in or out, and the movement of services in or out. So we try to keep it as simple as possible, as the movement of things across borders.

Clark Cogbill:

That's a good description. Now you're less than a year into your role as CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas. Tell us a little bit more about your background and what led you to your current role as CEO.

Denise Thomas:

It's interesting how life just unfolds before you, and just find yourself doing things that you didn't think you would do. If I had thought of my life and the things that I wanted or envisioned for myself, this actually would not have been one of them.

Denise Thomas:

I went to school for fashion and always thought I would be a person that was a bit of an introvert and sit quietly, design clothes, create things for other people. And I found that I love talking, and I like helping others. And working in the Jacksonville Chamber was something that came about primarily because I was out networking and just talking and making friends and ran into someone who gave me an opportunity to work my first time within economic development. And in that experience, I found that I absolutely love it. I love everything about the movement of ideas or thought and having that come to fruition, specifically with trade now and this new role that I have.

Clark Cogbill:

Well, we're glad you found your calling and certainly glad that you wound up in Arkansas. I'm sure there's no such thing for you as a typical day, but describe, if you can, your schedule on any given day as CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas.

Denise Thomas:

There are no typical days. There's absolutely not one day that goes as planned. I plan my day accordingly. I'm very detailed as it relates to what I want to achieve that day. But I will tell you nine times out of 10, it's never what I expected. My day usually starts, I'm up at 5:00. I meditate every morning for about an hour, and that's something that I've done for, gosh, at least 10 years now, if not longer. And that's an important part of my day.

Denise Thomas:

Then I get dressed, I get my kid up, we go to school, work. And she has learned that sometimes mommy has to make phone calls to international markets. So we have sometimes very detailed conversations about things. I get her out of the car, and I'm usually on the phone, on my way into the office, for sure.

Denise Thomas:

I usually hit the door between 7:30 and 7:45 at the office, and the day just starts rolling from there, depending on what's going on or what the needs are from the team, what the needs are from our clients, and what the needs are from some of the organizations that we partner with, like the AEDC, the governor's offices. Sometimes the senator's offices will have requests or specific things that they'll want from us. So we are reciprocal of information and giving information, as well as servicing our clients, to making sure that they have what they need to be able to achieve their goals globally.

Clark Cogbill:

When I joined AEDC in 2016, I was surprised to learn that there was a World Trade Center in Arkansas. I always think of the World Trade Center as being in New York, and I think a lot of people probably do. You and I were talking last week, and you mentioned that not every state has a World Trade Center. So tell us, what is the history of the World Trade Center office in Arkansas? How did it get here?

Denise Thomas:

Well, that is an interesting story. In, I think, 2005, 2006, at the time it was Congressman Boozman, and at the time it was Chancellor White at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville, took a trip to Montana and visited the Montana World Trade Center. From that experience, they found that they felt like this would be a great place to have an Arkansas World Trade Center.

Denise Thomas:

So they went on their journey of networking and just really building comradery with our community leaders to facilitate the opportunity for World Trade Center Arkansas, to be here that brought about the World Trade Center Arkansas in 2007. I have been with the World Trade Center since 2007. So it really is a great opportunity for our small businesses. World Trade Centers, there's 300 worldwide in over 100 different countries. We have a reciprocal agreement to work together, so we facilitate trade with each other, bilateral trade within the World Trade Center organizations, as well as working with US Chambers of Commerce, US Department of Commerce, and other government entities globally.

Clark Cogbill:

And so worth noting that your office is located in Rogers, Arkansas.

Denise Thomas:

Yes, we are based in Rogers, but we service the state. So we travel throughout the state regularly, visiting our clients, visiting companies that we want to work with or that want to expand into the international arena. We pride ourselves on really getting to know those clients. We have good relationships with them. Trading commerce is really based upon relationships. For us to be able to do what we do, we have to be engaged with those clients. We have to take a little bit of ownership of their company and what it is that they're doing and feel what they feel, experience the pain, experience the frustration, but also experience the victories that they have when they're able to move their product or service abroad, or find the right rep to help them distribute that product somewhere else in the world. So we take a lot of time with them. We get to know them very well. We end up doing lunches, dinners, picnics, family functions, company visits, different things. So it's really a very intimate relationship with those clients, I would say. Very familiar.

Clark Cogbill:

And speaking of working with companies, I assumed that it's mostly the largest businesses that are conducting international trade. But according to your website, 80% of Arkansas exporters are small and medium enterprises. A little surprising that it's that high of a percentage. So how can companies work with World Trade Center Arkansas to take advantage of international trade opportunities?

Denise Thomas:

Oh, that's a great question because there's a lot of different things that people can do. So I always say the first thing is either send us an email or just give us a simple call. The website, arwtc.org, has all of our contact information, and you can email me directly or call directly.

Denise Thomas:

What we try to do is we try to understand and what it is that you're doing and what your goals and objectives are. Once we understand a little bit about your company, we can help you identify new markets. We can assist you with that market research to help you find the sweet spot, because just like anything else, there's a sweet spot to where you want to go, how you want to build your business strategically. My passion is strategic thinking, and thinking in a way that can really help you see beyond what it is that you're doing and looking for new opportunities.

Denise Thomas:

Once I understand your company... A lot of times, we miss the forest for the trees. So we spend a lot of time trying to understand what your goals are and why you have those goals, because we want to offer you other thoughts or other opportunities to move that product and/or service into a country that you may not have thought of.

Denise Thomas:

So a perfect example is the Ukraine and the conflict within Russia and the Ukraine. Finland buys a lot of timber from this market, and Arkansas has lot of timber. So we just did a pre-trade mission to Finland, and that was a topic of conversation. Is this an opportunity for Arkansas to provide timber to this marketplace? Is there opportunities for us to engage with the educational programs to look at what we are doing within our timber industry, that we may be able to improvements in our processes, what they should be. Are we looking at things that we can do here within the state that may be able to provide to other countries or to other markets?

Denise Thomas:

So when you look at the whole picture, it's a different story than what you thought. And it wasn't something that we had planned to do. This conflict came up, and we said, "Okay, wait a minute. We still need to be able to help our neighbors and be supportive through job creation for those people that are coming across the borders. Is there something that we can do?"

Denise Thomas:

So we don't want to look at it from the perspective of us being capitalist, but humanitarian efforts. So I think a lot of times people look at trade, and they forget that there's definitely some humanitarian efforts that go into that and go into the thought of what it is that you're doing. So when we service the clients, we look at sustainability, we look at are there other opportunities for this client to gain some insight, to help them improve their business practices and create jobs here within our state, and potentially create jobs within another country or another economy. And that's something that I think we take that for granted sometimes.

Clark Cogbill:

I think that's a great point. So finding a market, finding an opportunity between Arkansas and another country that wasn't there before can help create jobs on both ends, both in that country and the state of Arkansas.

Denise Thomas:

Correct. Correct.

Clark Cogbill:

Well, I'm curious to know from your perspective, where does Arkansas really shine when it comes to global trade?

Denise Thomas:

This was a surprise for me. When I first took the job, I did a lot of research, and I was the person that went out and crunched the numbers. And I'm not a numbers person, but that was my role when I first started at the World Trade Center. And I found that aerospace is our number one export. And that was a surprise for me. That was an aha moment, because you don't think of Arkansas as aerospace. You think of Arkansas as rice and chicken, which are great exports for us within the agricultural sector. But aerospace is really, it is the lion in our wonderful ecosystem here within the state.

Denise Thomas:

I feel that we can grow aerospace market exponentially by looking at new opportunities, looking at other areas that our manufacturers can use their products. So that's one of the things that the World Trade Center now is beginning to do research on, is going back, talking to those aerospace manufacturers, identifying what it is that they're manufacturing, and what other industries that their product applies to.

Denise Thomas:

For example, locks. Can these locks apply in trains? Can they apply in ship building? Can they apply in other areas or other functions that we may not have thought of before? Is there something that we can do to promote them differently in another area or another country that we may not be selling to? For example, we don't have sales to South Africa. We don't have sales into the continent of Africa, direct sales in the aerospace industry. We have indirect, but not direct. So can we increase by looking at new markets for them, and can we go and identify new markets for them? So those are some of the things that we're looking at.

Clark Cogbill:

Fantastic. And so a follow-up question of that, what are some of the key growth opportunities that you see for Arkansas?

Denise Thomas:

Farming and ag. I see that farming and agriculture really can be the thing that really moves the needle for the state. I always say that if you feed the people, you'll always eat, and your people will obviously never be hungry. But with food production and the increasing of food production, let's say with the California corridor, for example, if we're able to do that in such a way, the World Trade Center now can work with those farmers, work with those industries to produce food that we now can work to export. And moving that food out into other countries, and looking at it in a way that can we do it more sustainably? Can we do it more economically? Can we do it with a less carbon footprint? Can we provide food that's needed and wanted by this group of people for whatever reason?

Denise Thomas:

So when you look at opportunities for the state, that's really a huge opportunity because we have land, we have water, we have knowledge, because this is one of our superpowers. We're great at farming. And that's something that I really feel that there's the biggest opportunity for the state, going to be building that the farming exports that we have and growing into different industries, looking at other opportunities, what other products can be farmed here.

Clark Cogbill:

And then last week, you and I were talking about... The topic of tourism came up. Talk to us a little bit about what World Trade Center Arkansas is doing with tourism.

Denise Thomas:

Well, I'm a storyteller, and stories sell.

Clark Cogbill:

This is a good medium for storytelling.

Denise Thomas:

Yeah, I'm a storyteller, and stories sell. So I always tell the stories of Arkansas. Tourism is considered an export. So when people come to the state of Arkansas from foreign markets, those dollars are export dollars. And the more that we can increase tourism, it begins to offer people a wonderful look into the natural state. Who we are, what we do, how we live, and how we thrive.

Denise Thomas:

I've lived in many states, and I'm, like you said earlier, a native Californian. And I personally think Arkansas is amazing. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived. I've had the privilege of being able to travel all over the world in my job and in my personal life. And I can say with a certainty that Arkansas people are the nicest people. And when I go and I show pictures, and I talk about experiences, and I share images of our food, images of our kids playing on the lakes, the rivers, and the streams, hiking, the bike trails, the Crystal Bridges, all the museums, the Clinton Presidential Library, and on and on and on... We have wine country here, and they're like, "What? All of this... I didn't know this."

Denise Thomas:

So when you do that, it makes people want to come. So in our efforts to be able to get more people here, we tell the story of how wonderful a state this is. It's not just a place to come and do business. It's a place for you to come and be.

Denise Thomas:

I use the analogy of this. People say that Arkansas is a flyover state. You just fly over. And I say, "No, we are a state of destination. We are a destination state." Because you can go to the big city and do all the big city things you want to do. But the truth of the matter is when you want a holiday, you want to have an experience that's unforgettable. And that's what we offer you. We offer you things that you're not going to get somewhere else. And we offer you a culture unto itself. There's no other way of life than the life that the people here in the state live. Where else can you go to get pasta and fried chicken, and that's your Italian meal for the day?

Clark Cogbill:

Right. Well, and I think your perspective is a unique one. I've lived in Arkansas my entire life. You were born in California. You've lived in a lot of different places. You now are passionate about calling Arkansas home. So you're describing Arkansas, but you have the perspective of all these other places. But this is home for you.

Denise Thomas:

This is home. My daughter was born and raised here. My husband and I have been here for 20 years. My mother lives here. This is her home. And I have no intentions of leaving. There's two problems with the state of Arkansas. And that one is I still am not used to the snow. It's something I have to get used to.

Clark Cogbill:

The snow.

Denise Thomas:

It's beautiful when I see it for about two days. And then after that, I'm over it. And there's no ocean. Those are two things that no one can do anything about, and I still live here in spite of no ocean and snow.

Clark Cogbill:

Well, we don't get a lot of snow. So just maybe enough to enjoy.

Denise Thomas:

Just enough to enjoy. And I would say, yes, we went sledding this last snowstorm that we had. That was really nice.

Clark Cogbill:

All right. Our two organizations, Denise, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, where I work, and World Trade Center Arkansas work closely together. Can you give us your perspective on that partnership and why it's important?

Denise Thomas:

I would say for our World Trade Center, it's imperative. It makes it so that we can function. And I'll explain that a little bit. With the World Trade Centers, they're all somewhat different. We have basic agreements that we have to do certain things, trade activities, but because we have that relationship with the AEDC, it really makes it a lot easier for us to go forth and do good works, because we're speaking on behalf of the state of Arkansas. That relationship, I feel, we wouldn't be as successful as we are if we didn't have it. The agreement is for us to really facilitate bilateral trade in exchange, and the AEDC does foreign direct investment. We contribute to foreign direct investment through those stories, through sharing the wonderfulness of Arkansas and the ease of doing business. So we share that information with the companies and the countries that we go to visit, just like the AEDC shares information about trade and the opportunities to do business.

Denise Thomas:

So we work in tandem. I feel that the relationship couldn't be stronger. We can always make things better, but I think that's just something that comes with time. But from my opinion, it's an ideal situation for both organizations because we can do double duty between the two of us. We can get more done and be a lot more collaborative. And I found that the collaboration really makes us stronger.

Denise Thomas:

So, we did an event with the economic development group, international economic development group in Washington, DC. And I had a goal to go speak with the Indian ambassador while I was there. And I shook his hand and I said, "Hi, my name is Denise Thomas. I'm with the World Trade Center Arkansas." And before I could get Arkansas out of my mouth, he had already told me, "Oh, I spoke with your Governor Hutchinson. He invited me." And I said, "Well, that's what I'm here to do." And he was like, "Oh, wonderful. Two invitations in one week." So that goes back to we're all working to achieve a goal. We have a goal, we set the goal, and that was to facilitate this conversation. And we were both able to do that within a short period of time. That makes our state stand out to that ambassador.

Clark Cogbill:

Yes. And as you pointed out earlier, we don't have an ocean. One of the things we do have is a culture of working together. And I'm not making this up just in my own head. I hear this, and you do too, and you see it repeatedly. And I think that culture helps make that partnership, as one of many partnerships in Arkansas, work, the partnership between AEDC and World Trade Center Arkansas. And I know that we greatly value that partnership with your organization.

Denise Thomas:

We do as well. I feel and know that we are stronger because of the relationship. The client, the SME, the small business benefits from the relationship as well. So we share the marketplace, which is the state of Arkansas small businesses, small to medium size companies that we service, because we're servicing the same customer. And the customer gets the support of the AEDC in some shape, form, and fashion, as it relates to the economic development of how they live and the quality of their life.

Clark Cogbill:

Right.

Denise Thomas:

The World Trade Center does that through increasing that tax base and creating those jobs through trade activities. So one can't be successful without the other. And that tandem really does benefit the end user, which is that client and the child that's going to school, that gets a good education because we can put those dollars towards a better school, healthcare, through roads.

Denise Thomas:

And I think sometimes people forget that trade is a huge portion of that, and it really does impact the quality of life. And that's what the AEDC's job is, is how can we improve the quality of life of the people within the state. And that, to me, is a part of being that humanitarian piece of what it is that we do. That's really important, because if you feel good about where you live, and if you feel good about the environment and the people you live with, you are actually a kinder, happier, more generous person. And to me, that's really the key to the success when I look around and I talk to people, and they say, "I like living here, I enjoyed this, or it was nice when..." That makes me think, "Okay. Yeah, we had a little bit to do with that." And that partnership really does help foster that growth and greater opportunities for all of our Arkansans that are here within the state.

Clark Cogbill:

That's very well said. And it leads me to my next question. When we're talking about global trade, most people, I think, think of imports, exports, and transactions that help countries meet supply and demand of businesses and consumers, which is all great. I'd like to hear a little bit more about what you're saying about some of the intangible benefits of global trade that sometimes may get overlooked.

Denise Thomas:

Diplomacy. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy. And we take those things for granted. So with the World Trade Center, through the years, we've had a lot of dignitaries, ambassadors, presidents of countries, council generals come and visit. And we always have some form of fellowship. And I always use this expression, food, fun, and fellowship, the three F's. Food, fun, and fellowship. You do business with people you like, you do business with people who are your friends, and you do business with people you have something in common with. And it's great if you can do business with someone that it's really a great transaction, a good business opportunity. But you're more apt to continue to foster that relationship if that person is your friend.

Denise Thomas:

And friendship, that diplomacy, you can't get to the friendship without the diplomacy. That's why, when you look at White House functions or these high level government functions, there's always some form of a reception or some form of a gathering of people, because when you laugh and you're eating and you're asking, "What is that? Why is it that way? Help me understand this." You laugh at yourselves, you begin to break down barriers. And it's so much easier for you to go and do those difficult conversations, because negotiations is negotiations, whether you're negotiating a contract or a foreign policy. You are still... That interaction has to be there. But it's so much easier when you can say, "Wait, I don't understand this."

Denise Thomas:

And different cultural nuances, how do you get past that? How do you understand the unwritten things that body language says? Because our body language as Westerners is one way, whereas in other countries, body language means something completely different. How do you start to break those barriers down so that you really can get to know the person to do business, so that when you have a conversation, it's a real conversation, and there's a level of commitment that's there because you're talking to someone you actually care about that's your friend.

Denise Thomas:

So that diplomacy, I would say, is probably one of the most important parts of what we do, is developing those relationships at a high enough level. So that when we say, "Hey, we want to do a trade mission to your country," they're like, "Oh yes. Let us help you. Let us introduce you to this group of people and to that group of people. What's your delegation? What do they need? What do they want?" It's a very different relationship once we've done that diplomacy piece. And that's something that takes time.

Clark Cogbill:

So it's great to do business with people you like, who you consider your friends. And that only leads to more business opportunities.

Denise Thomas:

More business opportunities, which means everybody is prospering. And again, that helps humanity. That helps the most basic of living, the most basic of situations. And that's the wow, I think, of what it is that I get to do.

Clark Cogbill:

That's really cool. All right. I'm going to shift gears a little bit. One of your programs at World Trade Center Arkansas is the organization of Women in International Trade Arkansas. Can you give us an overview of what that program is?

Denise Thomas:

The organization of Women in International Trade is an organization that was founded by women, for women, to help support the opportunity for women to be involved in trade. And not just within their business, but also within the jobs. That's an industry that's usually not... Women usually don't do international business. It's not something that's the norm.

Denise Thomas:

The beauty of this particular organization is that they take any member. So there are lots of men in the organization. So it is a way for mentoring for young girls and students who want to look at trade opportunities or trade industry or international business opportunities for their career path. There is an educational component as it relates to movement of goods, trade policy, how that impacts day to day life, how that impacts how you're going to move your widget from point A to point B, what that trade agreement may do to help you improve your business practices within this given country, or not do business in that country and choose a different country.

Denise Thomas:

There is a great deal of information about networking, how to network, how to scale your company, how to grow your business in the international arena. And the organization is very friendly. They're a very open group of people and very knowledge-based. There's everyone from a micro business of someone who may make a simple piece of jewelry, all the way to executives in fortune 500 companies, as well as attorneys, lobbyists, political leaders. It's a great organization of about 3000 women worldwide.

Clark Cogbill:

So Denise, as CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas, what's your vision for the next five years, for where you want to take the organization?

Denise Thomas:

I would like to see more global leaders come to the state as a destination. And from their visits, I would like to see more foreign direct investment. I would like to see an increase in trade opportunities with those countries, from those diplomatic visits. And I'd like to see Arkansas become a state of destination for tourism, where people come here to see the wonder and the magic.

Denise Thomas:

And the way that we're going to go about doing that is literally telling the story a lot louder and being a lot bolder about saying this is who we are. And allowing that story to be heard in such a way that it's new, it's different, it's exciting. And I think that Arkansas definitely has the voice and the bandwidth to do it.

Denise Thomas:

I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and someone asked me the same question. So I'm going to give you the response that I gave them. I would like to see Arkansas as the Taj Mahal of the United States, that you come and you see what's going on here. Because when it comes to trade, there's no place that's easier or better to work with. When it comes to foreign direct investment, there's no place that's better. And this is the cream of the crop. We're in the middle of the country. We are the heart and soul of the United States. That's what I'd like to see.

Clark Cogbill:

I love it.

Denise Thomas:

A little lofty, but it's a goal.

Clark Cogbill:

It's good to have lofty goals.

Denise Thomas:

Yeah.

Clark Cogbill:

All right. Final question, but it's a two part question. We've been asking some of our guests this question to close out the podcast. What is your favorite destination in Arkansas? And part two, what's your favorite place to eat?

Denise Thomas:

Okay. Well, both of them happen to be in Northwest Arkansas, but I think it's because there's memories attached to them with special people. So Crystal Bridges is my favorite destination. And I remember that I was lucky enough to be one of the first guests when they did their soft launch, that got to see it before everything was all together. And they had these chairs sitting up over the stream, and the stream wasn't quite done yet, but it was still moving just a little bit. So I was sitting there, what now is the restaurant [Seven 00:32:30], looking out the window, thinking how lucky I was to be a part of something so beautiful and a part of a place that was just so magical. And there were people milling around just walking and talking. And for that moment, it just struck me that this is what heaven feels like. This is what heaven looks like. It was just that moving for me.

Clark Cogbill:

It's a pretty cool place.

Denise Thomas:

It was. And at that moment, that's all I could think about, was just how lucky I was to be able to live and be a part of something so magical. So I think that's why it's my favorite place in the state, because of that feeling that came over me at that moment. And my second most favorite place to eat is Tusk and Trotters. And it's Tusk and Trotter because they have something called bacon ice cream, which is my absolute favorite thing to eat now.

Clark Cogbill:

Bacon ice cream.

Denise Thomas:

It's vanilla ice cream with caramelized bacon, and it is heaven on earth. So I go there every year for my birthday, and I have my birthday ice cream. So a minimum of once a year, I'll eat there. It's probably more than that. When I think back on it every year, I go more often than I should, because I want the bacon ice cream.

Clark Cogbill:

Wow. That was a great idea waiting to happen.

Denise Thomas:

It was. And I tell everybody, you've got to try it. It's delicious.

Clark Cogbill:

Bacon ice cream.

Denise Thomas:

Yeah.

Clark Cogbill:

Something to try. And that restaurant is... Tell us the name of that restaurant again.

Denise Thomas:

Tusk and Trotter. And it is in Bentonville.

Clark Cogbill:

It's in Bentonville.

Denise Thomas:

Yep.

Clark Cogbill:

So worth the trip.

Denise Thomas:

Worth the trip.

Clark Cogbill:

Worth a trip from out of state or out of country [crosstalk 00:34:02] bacon ice cream.

Denise Thomas:

Right by Crystal Bridges. You walk the trail.

Clark Cogbill:

Visit your favorite destination, Crystal Bridges, and then go over to Tusk and Trotter for some bacon ice cream.

Denise Thomas:

Correct. You'll love it.

Clark Cogbill:

Well, this has been a great conversation. I've been talking today with Denise Thomas, CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas. Denise, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with me today.

Denise Thomas:

Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Clark Cogbill:

To learn more about World Trade Center Arkansas, visit arwtc.org. And you've been listening to the Arkansas Inc. podcast. This is Clark Cogbill, director of marketing for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. You can subscribe to the Arkansas Inc. podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast apps. For more information about AEDC and to sign up for our monthly newsletter, visit arkansasedc.com, and connect with us on LinkedIn , Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Thanks for tuning in.