Arkansas Economic Development Commission

Existing Business Resource

Maximizing Potential of Existing Business

Recognizing the importance of local industry, the Existing Business Resource division of AEDC is specifically focused on understanding the needs of each of our existing industries and assisting with their growth in Arkansas. 

One of the most powerful tools that AEDC has is the ability to assist new and existing industry with the growth of their existing workforce through the use of our training programs.

The division also provides valuable connections with other state agencies and serves as a liaison to the state’s educational system ensuring that training needs are effectively addressed. Sector managers are knowledgeable resources for existing industries in Arkansas helping companies navigate state systems to take full advantage of all pertinent available programs.

Steve Sparks

Director, Existing Business Resource
(501) 682-1350
(501) 682-7394
Download contact info (vCard)
Manufacturing Solutions: Professional Resources For Your Business

Manufacturing Solutions works closely with many public and private organizations to bring world-class guidance, training, and resources to Arkansas manufacturers.

5-Year Impact on Arkansas Manufacturers:

  • $836 Million in increased and retained sales
  • $16 Million in cost savings
  • $152 Million in client capital investment
  • 7,166 jobs created and retained.

(Survey period: 2012 - 2016)

Business Sector Management
Current Sector Focus

To more effectively understand current issues with the businesses in Arkansas, we have targeted specific sectors and dedicated Sector Managers for each.


Robin Pelton


Randy Brinkley

Paper and Paper Products

Steve Sparks

Transportation and Logisitics

Steve Sparks

Wood and Solid Wood Products

Rory Gulick

Workforce Pipeline
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts

One of fifteen public, residential high schools in the country specializing in the education of gifted and talented students who have an interest and aptitude for mathematics and science.

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA) is a two-year, public residential high school located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is a part of the University of Arkansas administrative system and a member of the NCSSSMST. 

Academically, the school is modeled after the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Studies focus on mathematics, computer science, science, and humanities, the largest department at the school. All courses are taught at the Honors level or above. ASMSA also offers a number of AP-level courses and courses that go beyond the AP level, especially in mathematics. ASMSA has an arts program, which was recently added by the state legislature. 

Aviation Training

Specific training programs have been established to ensure viability of key industry aviation. 

Aviation Maintenance Technology

Aviation maintenance is a program that prepares students to take the Federal Aeronautics Administration Exam to become a licensed aviation mechanic.       

Each graduate of the Aviation Maintenance Technology program is prepared to seek FAA certification/license in Airframe and/or Powerplant Technology in this one or two-year certificate degree or two-year AAS degree program. Offered under FAA accreditation standards, students complete a General curriculum in the first semester, followed by two semesters of Airframe curriculum and two semesters of Powerplant curriculum. Graduates will be able to repair, maintain, and service aircraft.  

This program is offered in 7 locations in Arkansas:

  • Arkansas Northeastern College
  • ASU Batesville
  • Black River Technical College
  • Mid South Community College
  • Pulaski Technical College
  • SAU Tech - Camden
  • SAU Tech - Texarkana

Pilot Training at Henderson State University

Henderson’s Department of Aviation offers a four-year bachelor of science degree specifically in aviation. Utilizing experienced faculty, flight instructors, and 15 aircraft, their goal is provide students with the training and education necessary to prepare them for a career in the professional aviation industry in the safest environment possible whether they want to fly for the airlines, manage the airports they serve or manage the fleet they fly.

Henderson State University conducts flight training from the Arkadelphia Municipal Airport (M89). Henderson operates the airport’s fixed base operation and offers flight instruction, rentals, pilot supplies and fuel supplies. They currently operate 11 Maule MXT-7 aircraft, 2 Piper Arrow Technically Advanced Aircraft, 1 Cessna 172RG, 1 Piper Comanche PA-30 and an American Champion Citabria.


The Environmental and Spatial Technologies (EAST) initiative offers students and teachers professional technology and software for use in a loosely-structured, self-driven environment.

The EAST (Environmental And Spatial Technologies) Initiative is an educational non-profit that oversees and trains for a school program, EAST, that operates primarily in the United States. It is unique for offering students and teachers professional technology and software for use in a loosely-structured, self-driven environment.

EAST began with one classroom in Greenbrier, Arkansas in 1996. Former law-enforcement officer Tim Stephenson was in his first year of teaching, and having had experience with “disconnected” youth, had been assigned a classroom of “at risk” students. In seeking a point of interest for them, Stephenson proposed an outing to a spot near the school where students often went to skip classes. The wooded area included a creek and a pond. It was pointed out that it would be muddy crossing the creek. The first EAST project turned out to be a bridge across that creek.

Realizing that the K-12 education system lacked the needed technology as well instruction in using it, Stephenson sought help from an Arkansas technology firm that introduced him to national and international resources. The academic-business partnerships that were formed became the foundation for a new and relevant model of learning, and the results have been astounding.

There are 215 East Labs in Arkansas.

New Tech High Schools

Improving the quality of STEM education available in Arkansas high schools.

New Tech came to Arkansas in 2011, with the announcement of Governor Beebe’s STEM Works pilot program. This program focuses on improving the quality of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education available in Arkansas high schools. “The STEM fields offer stable, well-paying careers for the 21st century, and the demand continues to grow at a rapid pace,” Governor Beebe said. “These are positions that companies are struggling to fill, even in tough economic times. If we are to continue to attract these types of companies to Arkansas, we must prepare our young people with high-tech skills and build a workforce that will help our state prosper.”

New Tech high schools employ integrated problem-based learning throughout the entire high school curriculum. Students use technology to facilitate their learning, while working on educational projects that incorporate curriculum elements from multiple classes (for example, students study math in literature). Students work in teams in open areas. Teachers act as facilitators to help students become directors of their learning processes. Students at New Tech High Schools experience a more hands-on educational process that better prepares them for the rigors of college and career. They develop a more dedicated and realistic approach to their studies, which is critical for student success after graduation.

Project Lead The Way

The nation’s leading provider of STEM programs helps students develop the skills necessary to succeed in the global economy.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is the nation’s leading provider of STEM programs. The world-class curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development model, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate and community partners, help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in the global economy.

PLTW programs are in more than 5,000 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. PLTW schools can be found in rural, urban, and suburban districts; across all income levels; as well as in public, private, and charter schools.

PLTW’s success in preparing students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed has been recognized by colleges and universities, Fortune 500 businesses, and numerous national organizations including Change the Equation, the Social Impact Exchange, and more. PLTW is offered in 84 Arkansas schools, ranging from large urban schools to rural delta schools.

Currently Arkansas has 99 PLTW programs that include 37 high school engineering programs, 12 high school biomedical science programs, 28 middle school Gateway programs, and 22 elementary Launch programs. Arkansas Tech University currently offers PLTW teacher training in multiple summer sessions for elementary, middle school and high school teachers 

UTeach System at Arkansas Universities

Innovative teacher preparation program increasing the number of certified STEM teacher graduates. 

The UTeach Institute partners with 39 universities to implement UTeach programs across 19 states nationwide. Three of these universities, all of which began implementation in Fall 2012, are located in Arkansas: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Central Arkansas.

These universities have a program enrollment of 318 students statewide and have produced 3 graduates in the Spring of 2014. Graduates of these programs are projected to teach approximately 110,000 secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students by 2020.

Statewide Initiatives and Partnerships
Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate

A portable credential based upon the WorkKeys® assessments that demonstrates to employers that an individual possesses the basic workplace skills required for 21st century jobs.

The Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) is a portable credential that confirms to employers that an individual possesses basic workplace skills in reading for information, applied mathematics, and locating information. Even if a job seeker has a GED, high school diploma or post secondary degree, the Arkansas CRC further verifies that he/she can handle skills required for 21st century jobs. To date, the Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate program has qualified more than 59,000 high-skilled positions.

Benefits to Employers:

  • Reduces turnover, overtime, and waste while increasing morale
  • Takes the guesswork out of selection decisions
  • Improves the effectiveness of training dollars
  • Meets Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements

To learn more about the Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate program, visit

The Modern Workplace Program

Created to facilitate the connection and communication between educators and industry representatives.

The Modern Workplace program was created to facilitate the connection and communication between educators and industry representatives in an effort to create an education environment that allows our emerging workforce to lead productive lives and satisfy the needs of Arkansas businesses. 

Objectives of the program are to:

  • Connect educators with local/regional employers to gain familiarity with local products and processes utilized in the workplace.
  • Link employers with the local/regional school system to foster ongoing relationships with educators.
  • Provide educators with local/regional business context they can use to supplement current teaching curriculum.
  • Familiarize educators with career opportunities in local industry and the skills needed to be successful.

Download the Modern Workplace Flyer 

Public-Private Partnerships
Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence

Provides training and consultation and administers the Governor's Quality Award Program. Any public or privately held organization of any size located in Arkansas may apply.

The Institute uses the seven categories of the Criteria for Performance Excellence as a guideline for training and application to the Governor's Quality Award. They are: 

  • Leadership 
  • Strategic Planning
  • Workforce Focus
  • Customer Focus
  • Knowledge Management
  • Process Management 
  • Results 

Consultants can also assist organizations not applying for award in performing self-assessments using the Criteria for Performance Excellence. More information can be found at

  • The program utilizes the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria
  • Annual industry specific training seminars are conducted regionally to assist companies with quality improvement systems
  • AEDC and Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award System has developed a partnership to utilize Baldrige National Quality Award criteria to engage Arkansas Companies in a TQM self assessment system
  • 50% of AEDC’s Existing Business Resource division has completed Quality Examination training and have been involved in GQA examinations

The program partners with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions to provide additional professional development and quality process improvement training to organizations across the state of Arkansas.

Industrial Training Center

Technical skills related to mechanical, electrical and instrumentation maintenance to advance incumbent employees and skill upgrades for top journeymen.


Green Bay Packaging in Morrilton was having a difficult time with skill upgrades for existing maintenance employees and developing a pipeline of new employees to backfill positions vacated due to retirement and internal promotions.


ATU – Ozark and Green Bay Packaging in Morrilton, in conjunction with leadership and resources from AEDC and ADWS created a training center specifically targeted at industrial maintenance.


Technical skills related to mechanical, electrical and instrumentation maintenance to advance incumbent employees and skill upgrades for top journeymen. New technology is also addressed and taught here. 


Employees from other surrounding companies are taking advantage of this training center as well. Payoff to each of the companies that train at this center result in extended life of their equipment and proactive precision maintenance which reduces unexpected downtime and increases production.

Process Technology Program

Curriculum jointly developed by the community college and the businesses involved so the emerging workforce can gain valuable skills that address refinery operations, chemical operations and process technology. 


Businesses are losing the critical skills needed to effectively, efficiently and safely run their operations as a generation of skilled workers retire.


SouthArk Community College, the El Dorado Economic Development Board and local industry partnered together to leverage resources and talent to create a program that will assist regional businesses in improving their existing employees and developing a pipeline for new employees into their industries.


Existing employees as well as potential employees from the emerging workforce can gain valuable skills that address refinery operations, chemical operations and process technology. Curriculum was jointly developed by the community college and the businesses involved.


Existing operators within regional companies as well as potential employees integrate knowledge and use of computers, math, physics and chemistry to learn how to safely and efficiently operate systems equipment. They also gain strong communication skills including writing, listening and orally expressing themselves in a team environment.