The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded the World Trade Center Arkansas a $592,357 grant to promote export expansion, job growth and job retention in 57 Arkansas counties affected by natural disasters. The grant is expected to spur an estimated $5 million in private investment, create 10,000 new jobs and help retain 350,000 jobs in Arkansas supported by international trade.

“We commend the World Trade Center Arkansas for helping to create economic opportunity through the promotion of international trade and business,” said Dennis Alvord, deputy assistant secretary for regional development at the Economic Development Administration. “This project will help expand Trade Center programs to help diversify the state’s economy.”

Trish Watkins, assistant director of grants and finance for the World Trade Center Arkansas, said the center will utilize the money to help Arkansas businesses and agricultural producers expand their foreign market access.

“We can also use the funds for trade missions, educational seminars, market research and to enhance our consultation services that we provide to Arkansas companies,” she said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared dozens of Arkansas counties to be federally recognized disaster zones on multiple occasions due to weather such as tornadoes and flooding since 2011.

Small businesses make up 80 percent of all Arkansas exporters and the state’s largest exports are agricultural goods and aerospace products. Many of the regions that were declared disaster zones rely heavily on agriculture as their primary economic driver.

“This grant allows us to provide a great resource to Arkansas companies, especially small businesses, that have been burdened by disaster recovery,” said Dan Hendrix, president and chief executive officer of the World Trade Center Arkansas. “This is an incredible investment in our state, and we are extremely grateful to the EDA for this opportunity.”