LITTLE ROCK — Consuls general from 14 countries attended a luncheon Friday in Houston hosted by Gov. Asa Hutchinson with the goal of strengthening relationships that can help the state attract international companies.


Consuls in attendance represented Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Vietnam.


The luncheon was held in Houston because each of the nations has a consulate in that city, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.


“The economic opportunities international companies bring to our state has tremendous potential, and fostering our relationships with consulates is one more way we can continue to build Arkansas’ reputation worldwide,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by AEDC. “As we meet with international leaders, we have a great story to share on the momentum in Arkansas’ economy.”


AEDC said that over the last five years, foreign direct investment in Arkansas has grown 41.5 percent. In the past 13 months, four Chinese companies — Sun Paper, Tianyuan Garments Co., Pet Won Pet Products and Shandong Ruyi Technology Co. — have announced plans to locate facilities in Arkansas that will result in about $1.5 billion in new capital investment and 1,520 new jobs, mostly in rural areas of the state, the agency said.


About 46,400 Arkansans are employed by nearly 450 foreign-owned firms, according to AEDC. Sixteen of the 118 projects signing incentive agreements with AEDC in 2015 were by foreign-owned corporations. Cumulatively, the projects created 524 new jobs.


Arkansas currently maintains offices in China, Japan and Germany.