2022 Governor’s Award Event

Governor Asa Hutchinson presented the leaders of six Arkansas companies with the 2022 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Global Trade on Wednesday, October 5. The award ceremony took place following a gala dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, with over 150 people in attendance. Roby Brock of Talk Business & Politics moderated a lively roundtable discussion with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. 

Arkansas’ international business profile continues to grow as a result of the companies honored with this award,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “I encourage companies throughout Arkansas to look to the innovative ways in which those awarded are doing business around the world. Support and resources, including the Arkansas District Export Council, are in place to support companies of all sizes interested in exporting.” 

 “These homegrown companies exemplify the diversity and possibilities of the Arkansas economy,” said Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “We are more connected with our global neighbors than ever before, and it’s great to see that Arkansas has the business climate and entrepreneurial support from organizations like the District Export Council that companies need to succeed on the world stage.” 

We celebrated the following six companies, who received the 2022 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Global Trade:

Jason Brancel, CEO of Riceland, with Governor Asa Hutchinson

Riceland (Stuttgart) – Agricultural Exporter Award

Riceland Foods, Inc. is a farmer-owned agricultural marketing cooperative and the world’s largest miller and marketer of rice. The company was founded in 1921 with headquarters in Stuttgart. Riceland has worked for decades to become a trusted partner in the international market. The co-op also sells products to retailers, food service, and food manufacturing companies globally. Riceland’s largest export market is Haiti. The company is continuing to work toward fulfilling the mission of helping farmers feed the world in a sustainable manner.

Tom Gordon, Sam Rothschild, with Governor Asa Hutchinson

Slim Chickens (Fayetteville) – Franchise Development Exporter Award

Slim Chickens is proud to be one of the largest food service employers in the state, and what started as franchise expansion within the United States, grew to global expansion six years ago in Kuwait. International growth has been rapid and now Slim Chickens has 27 locations opened and operating throughout the U.K., with 10 more to open this year. New locations that will be coming soon include stores in Turkey, and in the near future Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Netherlands, and Czech Republic as well.

William Burgess with Governor Asa Hutchinson

Power Technology (Alexander) – Innovation and Impact in Manufacturing Exporter Award

As one of the oldest Photonics companies in the U.S., Power Technology has been a driving force in the laser industry. Major clients include those within Israel, the United Kingdom and South Korea. The company’s expansion secured business in locations such as Indonesia, Hungary and Uruguay. By leveraging the increased reach of distributors in key markets, significant growth was created in specialty laser products.

Steve Presley and Scotty Bell with Governor Asa Hutchinson

Virco (Conway) – Resilience in Manufacturing Exporter Award

Virco designs, manufactures and assembles classroom furniture in-house. Virco’s top export markets in the past five years are Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. The company does business in over 75 countries, worldwide. While sales declined during the pandemic due to funding, shutdowns and shortages, Virco experienced a strong rebound in 2021 and 2022 with significant growth in international markets.

Ben Johnson with Governor Asa Hutchinson

White River Hardwoods-Woodworks (Fayetteville) – Rising Star Exporter Award

White River Hardwoods is a family-owned business that manufactures embellished and traditional hardwood mouldings, corbels and architectural woodcarvings for the millwork and kitchen & bath industries. White River Hardwoods has taken great steps forward in their export sales percentages while increasing overall revenue. The company is currently working on a project for Disney Tokyo.

Brittany Scott with Governor Asa Hutchinson

SMART Repro (Jonesboro) – Woman Owned Exporter Award

SMART Repro is a small business located in Jonesboro, led by owner Brittany Scott. SMART Repro is the first company in the United States to achieve European Union and United Kingdom certifications for the collection, storage, and export of sheep and goat frozen semen and embryo and also the first company to negotiate multi-country export certification from the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Expanding into international markets can seem daunting to small and midsized companies, but it doesn’t have to be scary,” said Jonathan Bricker, Chair of the Arkansas District Export Council. “As the companies honored proactively do business with new markets around the world, the state benefits through new jobs, increased tax revenue and capital investment in expansion. The Arkansas District Export Council is in place to ensure companies of all sizes can pursue and succeed in exporting.”