Editor’s Note: “The Economic Development Side” originally appears in the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s weekly member e-newsletter. It is written by Rhonda Dishner, the Economic Development Alliance’s executive assistant.

The chief executive officer of Transatlantic Business & Investment Council (TBIC) paid a visit to Pine Bluff for a few hours last week to see the community’s sights — and sites.

Matthias Beier is president and CEO of TBIC, which specializes in foreign direct investment to the United States. It assists European companies “in expanding their business across the Atlantic.”

Beier (Matt to his American friends) was in the U.S. on one of his routine trips. He travels from the home office in Berlin, Germany, about every six to eight weeks to visit TBIC-member communities. The council also has a U.S. office in Atlanta.

It was Beier’s first visit to Pine Bluff since the Economic Development Alliance was accepted as a member in mid-2017. He brought along the Alliance’s new certificate of membership valid until June 2020.

After a community briefing at the Alliance, Beier was taken on a driving tour that included the Port of Pine Bluff and Jefferson Industrial Park. Along the way, staff members pointed out the many manufacturing companies here as well as available buildings and industrial sites that could be of interest to his European contacts. Numerous photos were snapped.

Commenting on the ongoing redevelopment activities in the downtown area, he was invited to return in the future to see the progress. He also admired the area’s abundance of trees, which he said isn’t typical in many European cities — or “rural” landscapes.

Beier later emailed his appreciation for the hospitality and reported being “very impressed by the diversity of your manufacturing industry and the size of your upcoming projects.” He added that TBIC would work “to keep you even busier with European projects.”

Originally known as the European American Investment Council (EAIC), the organization recently changed its name to better describe the foreign direct investment services it provides through a network of investors all across Europe.

On this side of the Atlantic, TBIC serves as a “platform” for member-communities to actively market to those European investors looking for a location in the U.S. That’s done through conferences and sponsored trips to major trade shows. And with project leads sent from the council directly to its members. The Alliance has responded to numerous such information requests in the past two years.

TBIC’s membership directory now lists about 125 North American member-communities, predominately in the eastern half of the country. That number was about 70 when the Alliance initially became a member. Jefferson and Mississippi counties currently have the only Arkansas members.

The council first came to the Alliance’s attention in early 2017 when industrial prospects from Germany made a site visit here. The visitors were impressed with the local economic development team’s preparations, passed along a good report to colleagues, and word of their experience made it to someone affiliated with EAIC. Membership is by invitation only.

Alliance President Lou Ann Nisbett had previously met Beier at EAIC’s October 2018 annual conference in Ft. Wayne, IN. His visit here provided an opportunity not only to become familiar with Pine Bluff and Jefferson County but also to meet Nancy Lee McNew, the Alliance’s new vice president of economic development; and this writer, who’s also a member of the economic development team.