Foreign Ambassadors to Experience NWA
The State Department will conduct international business meetings in northwest Arkansas this week and in December as a part of their international business program, Experience America.
The State Department’s Protocol Chief Capricia Penavic Marshall will be leading the events, the first of a series of trips where the State Department brings ambassadors to experience different parts of the country, according to officials with the State Department.
Experience America is organized by the Diplomatic Partnerships Division of the Office of the Chief of Protocol, whose mission is to foster international goodwill and cultivate the relationship between the Diplomatic Corps and the people and institutions of the United States through an exchange of ideas, cultures, and traditions, said Marshall.
For three days, as part of its Experience America program, they will take the 45 ambassadors all around Arkansas to meet with local political leaders in Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville to explore the state’s historical and cultural landmarks.
The meetings started Sunday and continue through Wednesday. After the meeting in Little Rock Monday, today, they will travel to Fayetteville to visit the UA campus and later that night travel to Bentonville to tour Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Former President Bill Clinton, whose meetings will not take place until December, is set to meet with about 40 heads of state in Little Rock for a gathering of the Club de Madrid, an international organization of former heads of state. President Clinton’s event will be Dec. 16-19 and will include events at the Clinton Presidential Center.
Details for both trips in December are still being worked out and itineraries are uncertain, said officials with the William J. Clinton Foundation, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and the state Economic Development Commission.
“While not bringing huge amounts of dollars to the state’s hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, the benefits to Arkansas are bountiful,” said Jordan Johnson, spokesman for the Clinton Foundation.
The Oct. 21-24 event will be hosted by the State Department and includes about 45 ambassadors accompanied with their spouses and staff members, said Gretchen Hall, president and chief executive of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The “magnitude” of the events will focus national and international attention on Little Rock and Arkansas, Hall said. “It will absolutely help our profile. It’s tremendous,” she said.
With so many power brokers from around the world descending on the state, the moment to impress is now, said Grant Tennille, executive director of the state’s Economic Development Commission.
“Arkansas always exceeds expectations,” Tennille said. “You take every opportunity you can to spread the word about Arkansas as far and wide as we’re able to.”
Some of the former leaders in Club de Madrid are businessmen. Representatives from the agency will have table discussions for both meetings to promote the state of Arkansas as an international business destination.
“We look at an opportunity to showcase our state and our people and what we do here, particularly the things we do very well.”
Tennille acknowledged that the Clinton’s connection to Arkansas influenced and made both international business meetings possible.
When Gov. Mike Beebe traveled to China this summer he noted that: “Everybody in China knows two things about Arkansas: the president and the secretary and they know Walmart. It’s an enormous calling card for us.”