Story Map: A Look at 2020’s Business Assistance and Expansion in ArkansasFebruary 10, 2021
As we reflect on the past year at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), we see a story form of our business community boldly taking on the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Despite the challenges of the past year, Arkansas businesses showed fortitude and creativity to continue serving customers and keep employees on the payroll. At AEDC, we prioritized our partnerships with companies and communities throughout the state, big and small.
Check out our Story Map presentation for a look at 2020 data from AEDC.
In the Spring of last year, with the support of Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state legislature, AEDC launched the Ready for Business Grant Program to provide direct grants to companies for expenses associated with ensuring the health and safety of employees and patrons. In total, $129 million dollars was allocated to companies in all 75 counties across the state. 94.4% of the Ready for Business grants were given to small businesses of less than 50 employees. These businesses were able to sustain 225,000 jobs in each corner of our state.
Other business assistance programs available to Arkansans last year included the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and Quick Action Bridge Loan program. The CDBG program allocated $10 million to 27 rural hospitals in need of equipment and supplies as medical professionals on the front lines of the pandemic heroically cared for their fellow Arkansans. The Quick Action Bridge Loan program was specifically designed for small businesses across all industries in Arkansas with between two and 50 employees. In total, 483 small businesses from across the state received Quick Action Bridge Loans in 2020.
Broadband quickly became an essential tool as many Arkansas businesses, employees, teachers, and students transitioned to work from home. The Arkansas Rural Connect broadband grant program expanded the broadband footprint in rural communities throughout the state. In total, through the Arkansas Rural Connect program, more than $86 million was awarded in 2020 to communities in need.
In spite of the pandemic, Arkansas remained a desirable location for business expansion in 2020. Companies including Amazon, Gerber, Nestlé, Fiocchi, and Cynergy Cargo announced plans to invest in Arkansas last year. In total, 57 companies created a projected 3,406 jobs across the state, and the total projected investment for the year was more than $962 million. Businesses continued to see the benefits of investing in Arkansas, and we are already seeing the growth in jobs and investment continue in 2021, with recent announcements from Hytrol, Carvana, Butterball, Mars Petcare, SGL Carbon and Loanpal.
The state’s economy continues to improve. After the unemployment rate peaked at 10.8 percent in April, it dropped by 2.1 percent to 4.2 percent in December as businesses all over the state forge ahead.
For a more in-depth look at our state’s economic development and recovery efforts in 2020, check out our interactive story map.