BENTONVILLE — Gov. Sarah Sanders began her Bentonville “capital for a day” events Tuesday by greeting 700 visitors drawn from 50 states at the Walmart Stores Inc. “Open Call Day.”
The retailer brings businesses from around the country to its Bentonville headquarters to let them make a pitch to the company to sell their products at Walmart stores. Tuesday’s 9 a.m. opening gathering is the 10th annual such ceremony in the two-day event. The company has invited the state’s governor every year since the beginning, company spokesman Kevin Gardner said.
Sanders chose to attend in person, making her greeting the first in a day-long schedule of meetings with local leaders in Bentonville. The governor thanked Walmart for the company’s commitment to Arkansas.
“For those who are from out of town, you’ve probably seen here in Northwest Arkansas, our state’s economy is absolutely booming,” Sanders said. “Our unemployment rate reached a record low earlier this year. More Arkansans are working than ever before. Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. And all across the state, thousands are moving here from everywhere.
“It has literally never been a better time to visit Arkansas, invest in Arkansas, or move to Arkansas.”
Mike Townsend of Knoxville, Tenn., said the region compares favorably to his home near the Smoky Mountains.
“I’ve been all over the country,” said the president of BDry Towel Inc. “The region reminds me of upstate New York and the pretty parts of New Jersey.” He also said Sanders impressed him as “very pragmatic and down to Earth. She was raised right.”
After the Walmart event, Sanders planned to visit Mary Mae Jones Elementary School at 10:15 a.m. along with state Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva. She then planned to visit the Northwest Arkansas Armed Forces Reserve Center at 11:30 a.m.
A 1 p.m. visit is set with members of The CALL, a Bentonville nonprofit group that helps foster children in the state, along with members of the Benton County Support Center of the state Division of Children and Family Services.
She will then tour Ledger, an office development downtown at 2:15 p.m. and Airship Coffee at 3:30 p.m.
The final event is a meet-and-greet with constituents at the Table at the Hickory Inn restaurant, 1502 N. Walton Blvd.
The morning manufacturing call and evening meet-and-greet are the only two events open to the press, according to the announcement. The governor took no questions at the morning event.
Bentonville is the second city designated by Sanders as state capital for a day. Mena was capital for a day on Friday.