About AEDC | Find Properties | Contact Business Development

AEDC Division Directors Jean Noble and Esperanza Massana-Crane Honored with National, State Awards

 September 30, 2022

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (September 30, 2022) – Two Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) division directors were recently honored with national and state awards for their outstanding work in business and economic development. Jean Noble, director of AEDC’s Grants Division, recently received two honors for her work to improve economic development and quality of life throughout Arkansas. Esperanza Massana-Crane, director of the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Division, was named Woman of the Year in Business by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) at the 24th annual Power of the Purse Luncheon last week. 

The Council of State Community Development Agencies (COSCDA) announced Noble as the recipient of the 2022 James Reeves Member Contribution Award which recognizes an individual COSCDA member who has made the most significant and sustained contribution to the work and mission of COSCDA during the last five years. Award recipients were recognized during COSCDA’s Annual Conference held September 12 - 14, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Noble is a long-time active COSCDA member and currently serves as an at-large board member as well as the chair of the training and professional development subcommittee. Jean Noble

“I was extremely honored to have received the James Reeves award in front of my peers from across the country and sincerely thank my colleagues who nominated me,” Noble said. “The advocacy efforts of COSCDA, access to HUD headquarters staff, peer-to-peer information sharing, and keeping abreast of the pressing issues affecting CDBG and other state-administered federally funded programs is vital in our work ensuring the grant programs we manage continue to benefit our most vulnerable populations.”

There are several criteria for the 2022 James Reeves Member Contribution Award, including: a member’s contribution to frequent and active participation in COSCDA workshops and conferences; responsiveness to staff requests for information or surveys; well-prepared and thoughtful input on developing COSCDA policy positions; service on committees; Congressional visits or meetings to discuss COSCDA positions; peer-to-peer assistance to other members; active support for and participation in regional meetings of states; service as a trainer in COSCDA-sponsored boot camps; and service in other roles to support and advance the COSCDA vision, mission, and strategic plan.

The Council of State Community Development Agencies is a national association representing state agencies dedicated to housing and community development. COSCDA members administer resources provided through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Community Planning and Development (HUD-CPD). States target investments supporting infrastructure, affordable housing, disaster recovery, homelessness initiatives, and job and business development among other activities.  

On September 17, Noble was honored by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (the Alliance) as an Acting Out Against Hunger Hero Award winner. The awards honor individuals, businesses, non-profits, and other groups fighting food insecurity in Arkansas and are held each year in September as part of Hunger Action Month. Noble received the award for her efforts in developing the Food Assistance Grant program through the Community Development Block Grant CARES Act (CDBG-CV) program, which provides grants to states, insular areas, and local governments to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the spread of COVID-19. The Alliance will use the funds to help purchase ready-made, healthy food boxes for distribution through the six Feeding America food banks in Arkansas; to purchase cattle through the Arkansas Beef Project and have them processed into one- or two-pound packages of ground beef for distribution; and to administer funds to purchase and equitably distribute food. The CDBG-CV Food Assistance Grant program was created in 2021 to meet increased need for food bank services and is an ongoing initiative.

“It has meant everything to the success of this food assistance program to partner with an organization like the Hunger Relief Alliance,” Noble said. “HUD had prioritized assistance to LMI persons, impoverished children, and the elderly, and to improve their access to food, healthcare and other basic needs, and that same priority was reflected in developing our CDBG-CV program set-asides. I’ve been told that the pre-packaged food boxes have been a game-changer for the food banks, and the fresh beef addition has been part of a unique national model. We are thankful to our citizens, legislators, and congressional delegation to be able to support this effort.”

Founded in 2004 by hunger relief organizations in Arkansas to provide a statewide voice to the issue of hunger, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is the only statewide anti-hunger organization in Arkansas.

The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas’ Power of the Purse is presented each year by Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Massana-Crane was named Woman of the Year in Business at this year’s luncheon on September 17 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.  Now in its 24th year, the Power of the Purse recognizes the accomplishments of women in Arkansas, celebrates the work of the organization, and raises money to continue making progress toward economic security for Arkansas women and girls.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this award by the Woman’s Foundation of Arkansas,” Massana-Crane said. “For those of us in economic development, we understand that every accomplishment is a team effort. For me, this award is a celebration of all the hard-working women—whether they work at home or at the workplace—who are trying to make a difference in Arkansas.”

The Woman of the Year in Business award was created specifically to recognize Arkansas women who have shaped the success of their organizations or businesses and demonstrated leadership, professional achievement, and contribution to the workplace and community. Massana-Crane was named Woman of the Year in Business for her work in facilitating the growth, development, and expansion of minority and women-owned businesses by helping them gain access to valuable information, new market opportunities and financial resources.

The mission of the WFA is to ensure economic security for Arkansas women and girls through collaboration and focused philanthropic investment. The WFA is the only statewide foundation that focuses solely on women and girls in Arkansas. In addition to Power of the Purse, initiatives include Women Empowered, Girls of Promise, and Save 10. Since its founding in 1998, the WFA’s guiding principles have been to understand the diverse needs and realities facing women and girls so they can respond through purposeful action and engaged philanthropy.

“Jean and Esperanza are valued members of the AEDC team,” said Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “Each day, I can count on each of them to come to work with smiles on their faces and an excitement and dedication to helping Arkansans throughout the state. We are excited and thrilled to see these promising women recognized on a national level as well as here at home. Thanks to the leadership of Jean and Esperanza, many of communities have been able to make needed improvements in infrastructure and develop programs that improve the quality of life for our citizens."