Mike Ross hit the campaign trail this week with a brief stop in Monticello Thursday afternoon on his initial 34-county “announcement tour” where he said he would build upon the foundation and progress Gov. Mike Beebe has made in economic development and education.

“There is a lot of concern about the direction this state is going to go when Gov. Beebe’s tenure is up and I think we have a real good opportunity to have a governor that understands our values, and understands the future direction we need to take this state,” Ross said.

A candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, the former congressman said he would be the “biggest economic ambassador this state has ever had.”

“I’ve got a positive vision about the future of this state and it starts with this premise: that every child that grows up in Arkansas should grow up knowing and having faith that if they do their homework, work hard and play by the rules they can achieve their God-given potential and they should not have to leave Arkansas to do so,” Ross said.

He said he has a multifaceted plan for economic development, focusing on large and medium-sized industries, small businesses, and growth in the downtowns across Arkansas.

“We’ve got to go after the big plants… but at the same time we’ve got to go after these medium-sized plants,” he said. “There’s a lot of new plants sprouting up around the country that employ 75 to 100 people. Do you want to put all of your eggs in one basket? Do you want to have one industry that employs 500 people – sure we’ll take it –  but doesn’t it make sense to also go after five industries that employ 100 a piece and if one closes the other four don’t? So we need to focus on the smaller industry too and also make sure we’re keeping the jobs we’ve already got.”

Finally, he said, he will support small businesses and encourage investment in Arkansas’ downtown areas.

Ross made his remarks from a podium in the back of a pickup truck on the lawn of the Drew County Courthouse a week after he made his official announcement for governor in his hometown of Prescott.

The primary election is in May 2014.

Ross joins former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the Democratic race. Halter, the author of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery framework, made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Declared GOP candidates are Asa Hutchinson and Curtis Coleman.

Hutchinson served in Congress from 1997-2001, leaving to serve as Drug Enforcement Administration administrator under then-President George W. Bush. He ran for governor in 2006 but lost to Beebe.

Coleman is the founder of a North Little Rock food safety company and now chairs a nonprofit institute on constitutional studies. He made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010.