Arkansas Economic Development Commission


Governor Mike Beebe joins AEDC, local leaders to celebrate 40 Years of CDBG

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (April 21, 2014) – Governor Mike Beebe joined Arkansas Economic Development Commission officials and local leaders from throughout the state today at the State Capitol to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the CDBG program, enacted into law as part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. The purpose of the program is to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing, a suitable living environment, and economic opportunities to low- and moderate-income households.

Since the program’s inception, more than $700 million in CDBG funds, which are administered through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), have been distributed throughout Arkansas communities. Fourteen Arkansas communities, with a population greater than 50,000, receive CDBG funds directly from the federal government. Because of this, these communities are not eligible to receive CDBG funds distributed by the State of Arkansas.

CDBG funds for small communities have traditionally been used for such projects as senior citizen centers, public health facilities, childcare centers, fire protection, community facilities, economic development projects, and water and wastewater projects.

“Most economic development begins at the local level, and the Community Development Block Grant program has helped change lives throughout Arkansas communities for 40 years,” Governor Beebe said. “It has helped our cities and towns build and maintain the infrastructure they need for better economic conditions, one grant at a time.”

Three projects were highlighted today as examples of CDBG funds being used in a variety of ways to improve communities:

American Vegetable Soybean and Edamame (AVS) announced plains in 2012 to open an edamame processing facility in Mulberry. AVS leveraged an investment of $4.8 million with a $990,400 loan in CDBG funds. The original agreement called for the plant to hire 50 persons, with at least 51 percent of the jobs made available to employees with low to moderate incomes. However, the plant has hired more than 100 new employees to date, and plans are underway for a second facility to be constructed nearby. The city recently held its first Edamame Festival with a variety of activities surrounding the soybean, one of the fastest growing specialty foods in the United States.
The McGehee Relocation Museum is a tribute to the more than 17,000 Japanese Americans relocated to Desha County after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. The City of McGehee applied for $219,000 in CDBG funds to restore and renovate the town’s old train depot to be used as a permanent home for an exhibit explaining the history of the relocation and honoring the Americans who were housed there. The CDBG grant was leveraged by a grant of $434,967 from the National Parks Services, $226,641 from the McGehee Industrial Foundation and $38,500 from the Arkansas Department of Rural Services.  The center was officially dedicated on April 16, 2013.  Not only does the museum help to generate tourist revenue for the Delta town of McGehee, but it will also insure that this story is not forgotten by the citizens of Southeast Arkansas or the United States.
The Mississippi County Union Rescue Mission was struggling to provide emergency services to a population hit by tough economic times. Originally started as an emergency shelter for men only, the Mississippi County Union Rescue Mission began to see a huge increase in homelessness in women and families. Using CDBG funds totaling $264,855, the Mission converted a former storage room into dormitory housing for women and children. Today, the Mississippi County Union Rescue Mission can house up to 50 persons at any time. In 2013, it housed a total of 29 children, 66 women, and 193 men.

“The flexibility of the CDBG program allows Arkansas to tailor funds to specifically meet the individual needs of each community recipient,” said Basil Julian, director of AEDC’s Grants Division. “Thus, some communities may have a childcare center as their top priority while others can leverage the funds to improve much-needed water/wastewater systems or purchase a new fire truck.”