by Max Brantley
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (January 9, 2009) – Governor Mike Beebe has released a long-term strategic plan to help achieve economic improvement for Arkansans through collaboration and cooperation. The plan was researched and drafted by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) in cooperation with the Governor’s Office. Key to the success of the plan is strong regional empowerment.
“A slower economy will not slow our strategies for economic development,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “Pushing forward with this plan now not only builds our current advantages, but will also put our efforts at full speed once the current recession lifts.”
At the core of the plan is a call to action for communities across Arkansas to form strong regional alliances to more effectively utilize their strengths and promote themselves. In addition, the plan calls upon the private sector to work with public agencies in an effort to create an environment that will systematically transition Arkansas to a state focused on knowledge-based job growth. Finally, the plan asserts that education is vital to economic success, especially in the growing knowledge-based economy.
“When AEDC began work on this long-range strategic plan in mid-2007 we knew the importance of seeking input from those involved in economic development.” said Maria Haley, executive director of the AEDC. “Without their views and opinions we knew we would end up with just another study that would be read once and put on the shelf. Our goal was to develop a comprehensive, living, strategic plan that would create the roadmap for our state’s future development.
“I believe the number of public and private entities we consulted with may be unprecedented, but it was the most important pillar of the plan,” said Haley.
The Governor’s Office and AEDC interviewed numerous stakeholders with an interest in Arkansas’s economic future for their input on the plan. State leaders in both the public and private sectors contributed ideas and information contained in the report. Leaders in education, workforce, tourism, agriculture and finance, along with Arkansas’s Congressional Delegation, contributed information.
The plan is composed of five guiding principles intended to create more income growth opportunities for the state. The guiding principles focus on Governor Mike Beebe’s five goals for economic improvement.
1. Increase the incomes of Arkansans at a growth pace greater than the national average.
2. Expand entrepreneurship, focusing on knowledge-based enterprises.
3. Compete more effectively in the global marketplace for new business and jobs, and create a business retention strategy to reduce closures.
4. Economic development will meet the special needs and take advantage of the extraordinary assets of various areas of the state. It will not be a one size fits all.
5. Increase the number of workers with post-secondary training so they are prepared when they enter the workforce and equipped for new jobs in the future.
The plan identifies a strategy for overcoming the three major obstacles that hinder Arkansas from moving its economy forward:
1. Arkansas needs a transitional, systematic approach to an economy supported by knowledge-based jobs.
2. The economic development efforts throughout the state are diffused and inefficient.
3. Arkansas lacks a recurring and predictable funding formula for economic development.
Implementation of the plan will lead to progress in workforce development, infrastructure, business development, competitive business climate, and collaborative partnerships.