Empowering Our Communities to Compete

 May 22, 2019

Whether companies are expanding or conducting a location analysis for a new location, they are looking for similar attributes in a community: a real estate option that meets their needs, appropriate infrastructure, a favorable business climate, access to a skilled workforce, and support from state and local officials.

The State of Arkansas strives to understand these needs and respond accordingly. We also know that many factors go into making a community and state the right fit. By continuing to improve our quality of life—raising teacher pay and improving pre-k access for all students, lowering taxes, providing additional funding for public safety officers, all while maintaining a balanced budget—Arkansas is making its communities stronger and better prepared for economic development opportunities.

A key component of Arkansas’ plan to make communities even more attractive for new and expanding businesses - the Competitive Communities Initiative (CCI) - is up and running with great success.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said when the program launched in 2018, “We don’t just want to compete, we want to win. My top priority is to grow the economy of this state, to create jobs, and for Arkansas to enter a time of sustained economic power and influence.”

CCI is the result of a strategic plan with input from community leaders, site selection consultants, utility partners, and other stakeholders, and requires communities to assess and provide information to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) for evaluation.

The CCI evaluation begins with a local economic development organization’s commitment to complete an initial questionnaire detailing existing workforce, available and shovel-ready sites, funding sources and information about the community’s economic development organization.

Best practices in the field of economic development were used to determine the standards for the Competitive Communities Initiative. A structured and funded economic development organization that has the support of the business community is imperative. Additionally, there must be a skilled workforce ready to fill jobs and a pipeline of ready workers in the future. Finally, in order to obtain the CCI designation, a community must have a shovel-ready site that has met the CCI standard 50-point, due diligence checklist that takes the risks out of planning for growth.

An evaluation team, including AEDC and partnering organizations, uses that information to help communities better understand any gaps or weaknesses that could negatively affect economic growth. With assistance from all stakeholders, communities can begin creating an action plan to improve areas that are lacking in their economic development efforts. Once the requirements are up to standard, a community will be designated through the program as a Competitive Community.

Today, there are five CCI-designated communities, including ParagouldNewportJonesboroRussellville, and Little Rock, with more coming soon. The CCI program is already attracting business to the state. Recently, CZ-USA announced plans to locate their North American Headquarters and build a new manufacturing facility on approximately 73 acres at the Port of Little Rock.

The designated CCI communities vary in location, size, industrial base and funding streams for economic development, but each has committed to focus their resources on making their community the best it can be for prospective businesses to locate.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. Read it here.

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clint oneal

Blog post contributed by:

Clint O'Neal

Executive Vice President Of Global Business
Arkansas EconomicDevelopment Commission
Little Rock, Arkansas