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Ep. 13 - Navigating International Business in Arkansas - with Denise Thomas

Denise Thomas, CEO of the World Trade Center in Arkansas, discusses building bridges with global trade partners to enhance bilateral relationships

A DBB podcast episode on 'Navigating International Business in Arkansas - with Denise Thomas'

Table of Contents

Andy Wilson, the executive director of Doing Business in Bentonville, interviews Denise Thomas, the Chief Executive of the World Trade Center in Arkansas. The conversation begins with an introduction of Denise, highlighting her impressive career trajectory and her significant contributions to the World Trade Center. Denise shares her unique journey into economic development, which she describes as an accidental venture. She recounts her educational background in fashion and her initial work in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was instrumental in expanding a small business center. After moving to Northwest Arkansas, Denise joined Walmart as a recruiter for the pharmacy and later for HR corporate.

Denise emphasizes the importance of relationships, networking, and seizing opportunities. She attributes her success to the unwavering support from her family, especially her mother, who was a dean of the libraries. Additionally, Denise acknowledges the influential women in Northwest Arkansas who have guided and supported her throughout her career. Shifting the focus to the core mission of the World Trade Center in Arkansas, Denise explains that the center's primary role is to support bilateral trade and exchange for the state. They collaborate closely with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the governor's office, and federal legislators to facilitate trade opportunities for Arkansas companies.

Navigating the complexities of international trade requires diplomacy, a significant aspect of Denise's role. She highlights the challenges of customs, understanding international regulations, and ensuring the smooth movement of goods across borders. Building and maintaining relationships with government officials and embassies worldwide is crucial for assisting Arkansas businesses. Denise also touches upon services being considered as exports, emphasizing the vendor community in Northwest Arkansas. The segment concludes with Denise mentioning their recent collaboration with Canada, underscoring the cyclical nature of international relationships and the importance of continuous engagement and adaptation.