Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Governor
Today, I’d like to talk about the celebration of Labor Day and the importance of our workforce.
Barbeques, pool parties, and parades are a common occurrence when Americans today celebrate Labor Day, but it wasn’t always about friends and families getting together for fun.
One hudred twenty-seven years ago, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill making the first Monday of September a national holiday. But the work it took to reach that point started years before the bill was ever signed.
At the time, employees, including children, were working more than 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, in places that were crowded, not ventilated, and not ideal for the work that was being done. The need for better conditions was high.
In 1882, the first Labor Day parade took place in New York City where approximately 20,000 union members marched down the streets of the city demanding better working conditions and shorter hours. In the years leading up to 1894, 24 states declared Labor Day as an official state holiday. Once again, you see states leading the way.
Today, we still celebrate Labor Day as a time to commemorate the contributions made by every American to strengthen our nation and preserve its prosperity.
In Arkansas, we have beautiful mountains, rivers, and the delta. Arkansas has a robust highway system and access to many resources that are in high demand. Arkansas ranks in the Top 25 nationally in the production of 16 different agricultural commodities.
But none of that matters without our state’s greatest resource: Arkansans.
Arkansas’s workforce is diverse and dedicated. With an unemployment rate less than the national average, Arkansans are working and excelling in the agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, military, and technology sectors of our economy. With the explosive growth of my computer science initiative, we have the talent to compete and succeed in the 21st century.
One of my favorite jobs as governor is to show new companies the benefits of doing business in Arkansas. With my team at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, led by Secretary Mike Preston, we work hard to bring in more high-paying jobs by recruiting companies from all over the nation and the world to come to our state. Just this year alone, AEDC has signed 17 new incentive agreements, which is expected to result in over 2,700 new jobs with an average wage of over $28 an hour. These new and expanding companies plan to invest nearly $4 billion of capital in Arkansas.
But it’s the Arkansas worker who is the most important attraction for any business looking to put down roots in our state. When I talk with CEOs, one of the first things they ask is “How are the people?” To which I reply, ‘they are the kindest and hardest working people you will ever meet.’