ébastien Deltheil sits in front of a model plane in a Dassault Falcon Jet Hangar, flags from every corner of the world swaying over the crisp white shell of the Falcon. He’s French by origin, but he’s laying down roots in Little Rock because it’s an unavoidable pinnacle in aerospace production due to the people working there. Several months earlier, just five miles away, Annemarie Dillard Jazic stands firm footed in front of the marble of Dillard’s headquarters and provides the same reassurance: The workforce and culture of Arkansas is unmatched.
Recently, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) has interviewed the leaders of some of the most prominent companies in the state including Hytrol, Dillard’s, Stephens Inc. and Dassault Falcon Jet. The upper ranks of these select companies gave insight into why they claim Arkansas as stomping grounds in AEDC’s Executive Voice campaign.
The industry leaders telling us what sets Arkansas apart: Annemarie Dillard Jazic, Dillard’s vice president of online experience and digital marketing; merchant bank Stephens Inc. President and CEO Warren Stephens; Hytrol President David Peacock; and Dassault Falcon Jet Senior Vice President and General Manager Sébastien Deltheil. They all came to, or started in Arkansas for many reasons, but why they stay is largely the same.
Tell us a little about the success your company has seen.
PEACOCK: In 1962 we relocated in Jonesboro, Arkansas, with 26 employees. Since then, we’ve grown to over 1,500 employees. We’ve had nine expansions: We have over 700,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space in Jonesboro, we’ve got 50,000 sq. ft. of R&D space and we have 300,000 sq. ft. in Fort Smith now.
We decided to expand into Fort Smith because we needed a second facility. Our growth has been phenomenal over the last several years. Fort Smith made it feel like it was home, very similar to the feeling that we have here in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
DILLARD JAZIC: Dillard’s is among the nation’s largest fashion retailers. We do just over $6.2 billion in annual sales a year. We operate in 29 states, but we’re headquartered right here in Arkansas. How incredible it is that a young man from a small town like Mineral Springs, Arkansas, (Dillard’s founder William T. Dillard) could build a Fortune 500 retailer, a fashion retailer, that’s nationally recognized.
“As our largest location worldwide here in Arkansas, we have a very large and diverse workforce.”
— Sébastien Deltheil, SVP/GM, Dassault Falcon Jet
DELTHEIL: Dassault Falcon Jet sells and supports one of the best business jets in the world. Our largest facility is in Little Rock and is dedicated to a complete aircraft. Dassault Falcon Jet has a reputation of producing one of the most
advanced business jets and providing our customers industry leading support.
What makes Arkansas unique?
STEPHENS: People ask me a lot, what’s in the water in Arkansas, where you can have such great companies founded and start here? And I tell them, well, it’s the people. Walmart, and JB Hunt, and Tyson, are all world-class leaders in their field. I think there’s a real advantage to being in a place like Arkansas. It keeps you grounded.
DELTHEIL: As our largest location worldwide here in Arkansas, we have a very large and diverse workforce. Many people enjoy the state for its beautiful outdoor activities, low cost of living and wide variety of career opportunities. Arkansas has a unique culture and history and we are proud to be a part of that for many decades now.
Arkansas is the perfect place for Dassault Falcon Jet because it has an environment that encourages business and attracts the best people. The people are the key to our success.
PEACOCK: When I get a chance to speak to executives around the country, I tell them you have supply chain accessibility, you have workforce, you have all the things that you need to run your business, but you also have the intangibles that often times get overlooked. Whether it’s the quality of life, cost of living, the opportunity for your folks to have a good family life, Arkansas presents all of those very nicely.
DILLARD JAZIC: While many people know us for being a beautiful state, the outdoor state, what many people don’t realize is that Arkansas is also home to many wildly successful companies. From the trucking industry to retail to investment banking and agriculture, Arkansas boasts some incredible businesses.
How are people here different?
DELTHEIL: There is no doubt that our employees are constantly seeking to exceed our customer’s expectations … Our 1.25 million sq. ft. facility here in Arkansas is home to some of the most skilled craftsmen and high-end aerospace manufacturing processes. Our skilled workforce here handles carpentry, leather work, metal work, cabinetry, upholstery and normal aircraft maintenance as well. When somebody comes here to pick up their aircraft, we try to gather all together along with the customer for a nice photo to show their pride in what they do every day, building and installing those interiors in our aircrafts.
DILLARD JAZIC: In Arkansas, people really collaborate well. They support one another, they want to see each other succeed. I think there’s a real effort made by corporations to work together as well. There’s a lot of pride whenever you see Arkansas companies succeed. You almost feel like you’re invested in it.
“While many people know us for being a beautiful state, the outdoor state, what many people don’t realize is that Arkansas is also home to many wildly successful companies.”
— Annemarie Dillard Jazic, Vice President of Online Experience and Digital Marketing, Dillard’s
PEACOCK: The talent pool in Arkansas is very similar to talent that you see around the country — we all face a tight labor market. The difference is the commitment of folks in Arkansas to solving the problem through education, employee development, all the different steps that are being taken.
How does the state support your business?
DELTHEIL: Dassault Falcon Jet continues to invest in Arkansas and even expand our operations here because of the business-friendly nature of the state and our very successful partnership with the AEDC.
PEACOCK: Working with the economic developers in the state of Arkansas and at Fort Smith made the process very smooth for us. They were very proactive in getting us the information that we needed to allow us to make the decision to move forward very quickly.
STEPHENS: Arkansas goes the extra mile, to the extent that they can, in terms of helping businesses, and helping them be successful.