What can Arkansas do to attract large economic development projects?
According to State Sen.
Trent Garner, Arkansas would be well-served by making its legal climate more competitive with surrounding states.
Lawsuit reform appeared to be improving Texas’ business climate, and Gov. Barbour wanted similar reforms to spur Mississippi’s economic development. In 2004 he pushed the state legislature to advance lawsuit reform, then signed those reforms into law. That change fostered a helpful business climate–not just for big corporations and large interests, but for all the citizens of Mississippi.
This is perhaps best understood by what happened a few years later when the opportunity for a new Toyota plant came to Mississippi. Toyota had asked multiple states for proposals for a new $900 million auto plant. At that time, Arkansas was on the short list of four states for the plant. Gov. Barbour’s efforts on tort reform advanced Mississippi’s prospects; Mississippi successfully captured the new Toyota plant in 2007, which created 2,000 direct local jobs. That Toyota plant has brought numerous benefits to Mississippi.
Currently, Arkansas is surrounded by other states with significantly more favorable investment climates, including but not limited to the state’s lawsuit climate.
I’d love to see Toyota and Mazda invest in south Arkansas. Winning this new auto plant would improve the lives of people in our state for decades.
What incentives can Arkansas offer car manufacturers? I would hope that we could offer lawsuit reform. History suggests that lawsuit reform creates a competitive advantage. Toyota wasn’t shy about informing Mississippi about the need for lawsuit reform. Arkansas policymakers need to follow through and make sure that our business climate is just as job- and investment-friendly.
You can read Garner’s full op-ed from Sunday here.