Making communities in Arkansas more successful when competing with other states for industries and jobs is the goal of a new program announced Monday by Governor Asa Hutchinson.
The “Competitive Communities Initiative” is an evaluation process developed by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It’s intended to help cities identify assets that companies look for when selecting new host sites. Governor Hutchinson spoke to over 100 city leaders at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock about the need for the initiative.
“The bottom line is we cannot recruit industry into this state if our product is not ready for sale. And our product is our wonderful workforce. It is our sites. It is is our economic development system that puts the operations in place and can make it happen,” Hutchinson said.
He cited Arkansas' failure to attract a new Toyota plant that ultimately chose a site in Alabama as an example of a need for the new program.
AEDC field-tested the new process with the cities of Hope, Van Buren, Helena-West Helena, and Newport over the past year. Jon Chadwell, the Executive Director for Economic Development for the city of Newport, said the process has made Newport better prepared to attract new companies.
“We already have the game plan if somebody says where am I going to find 500 workers. We’ve already thought that through. We know how to answer that question in the best possible way. And [the evaluation process] ranges from infrastructure, to workforce, to funding. We’re able to pull our information together rapidly,” said Chadwell.
Once a city meets the criteria of the new evaluation system it can be designated as a “Competitive Community” by AEDC and receive the benefits of increased marketing and exposure to companies considering Arkansas as a host site. No cities have received the designation yet.