Thursday, March 26, 2015

Arkansas job creation in a climate of discrimination

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 4:05 PM

click to enlarge WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE ARKANSAS A LEADER IN 'JOB CREATION': Hutchinson describing Mike Preston (center) with his wife, Anne. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE ARKANSAS A LEADER IN 'JOB CREATION': Hutchinson describing Mike Preston (center) with his wife, Anne.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson formally introduced Mike Preston as director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission today. As we reported last night, Preston comes from Florida's version of AEDC, Enterprise Florida, where he was he was head of government relations. 

"He’s a proven leader with an impressive track record of bringing in capital investment from major companies," Hutchinson said of Preston in a statement. "Having worked in a highly competitive atmosphere, Michael understands what it takes to position a state to be a leader in job creation. I cannot wait to see what his experience, expertise and vision can do for Arkansas.”

“I look forward to using my economic-development experience and management skills to implement Governor Hutchinson’s plan to make Arkansas more competitive and create more jobs," Preston said in a statement. 

That's sure to be more difficult with the advancement of anti-gay bills like Rep. Bob Ballinger's HB 1228.

Hutchinson and Preston were asked about Ballinger's discriminatory, so-called "conscience protection" proposal in today's press conference.

From Talk Business:

Hutchinson said he supports the latest version of the bill, HB 1228, stating that it is “important that we balance religious freedom privileges” but adding that workplaces have to be “free from discrimination.”

“I think it’s a bill that puts a higher emphasis on religious freedom,” he said.

Preston said he had not had a chance to review the bill and did not want to offer comment on how it could impact economic development until he had time to study it.

That said, Preston said he “hasn’t heard anything [in national circles] that would hurt Arkansas’ competitiveness” regarding the state’s business climate.

Preston's had a busy and exciting day, so he shouldn't be blamed for not knowing about what's going on in Indiana. But his statement does bring to mind his predecessor, Grant Tennille, who in 2013 urged the state to strike down laws that discriminate against gay people. To both attract jobs and keep the state's intellectual capital from leaving, Arkansas must create an atmosphere of equality, Tennille said.

"It's an incredibly simple concept. Arkansas needs to be a place where all are welcome." 

Good luck, Mr. Preston.

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