August 26, 2016

Canadian official’s visit to West Memphis highlights region’s global importance

A Canadian diplomatic official recently toured Eastern Arkansas, underscoring the important ties between Canada and the Natural State. The Aug. 23 visit by Sara Wilshaw, newly appointed Consul General of Canada in Dallas, was capped by a reception hosted by the City of West Memphis.

Wilshaw’s office represents Canada in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. Her office engages local leaders on issues that affect North Americans, helps Canadians living and traveling in these states and assists in building business relationships.

Those economic ties are particularly significant for Arkansas since Canada is the state’s largest international trading partner, says West Memphis Economic Development Director Ward Wimbish.

“We gave Consul General Wilshaw a crash course in our area’s infrastructure, pointing out that the Canadian National Railroad has one of its largest yards in Memphis,” Wimbish said. “By way of the Canadian Port of Prince Rupert, our area is this region’s connection to Northern China, South Korea and Japan. She was particularly interested in the logistical position of West Memphis and our community’s role in global trade.”

It was the first official trip to the area for Wilshaw and Henry Wells, her economic officer. They toured Big River Steel in Osceola and the Union Pacific Intermodal Yard in Marion before coming to City Hall in West Memphis for a city-hosted reception and a presentation by Wimbish.

The Consul General’s visit was another opportunity for Wimbish to share the role the city and the region is poised to play in global logistics, manufacturing and trade.

“Consul General Wilshaw was impressed by the level of industrial activity in this area,” Wimbish said, “and the fact that our local communities have a vision for economic growth and are taking active steps to stimulate that growth.”

While Canada and the Mid-South have plenty in common, Wimbish said, the differences were interesting to note. When Wilshaw met Mayor William Johnson, one of those differences got a few laughs.

“When she met the Mayor, she mentioned that in Canada, mayors are addressed as “Your Worship,” Wimbish said. “Mayor Johnson said the title ‘felt good.’”