What is known today as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) was first known at the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC), created in 1955. It was implemented by Act 404 of the Arkansas General Assembly post-World War II, as many states became industry-focused, and Winthrop Rockefeller was the first chairman. In 1997, when high-tech industries started to become more prominent, the organization was renamed to the title it holds today.
The AEDC focuses on creating economic opportunity in Arkansas and has a number of initiatives in motion to continue working toward this goal. The Competitive Communities Initiative, launched by Governor Asa Hutchinson in March 2018, is an “evaluation process to help communities identify ways to be more competitive with their organizational structure, economic development funding, workforce and product readiness,” Brandi Hinkle, AEDC director of communications, said.
Hinkle said that Amendment 82, which gives the Arkansas General Assembly the power to issue general obligation bonds to finance infrastructure or other needs to attract large economic development projects, has contributed to the state’s economic development efforts.
“Since its passage, it was [used] one time — for Big River Steel, the billion-dollar steel mill in Mississippi County,” she said.
Hinkle also said that the AEDC has a list of short-term goals for the calendar year. This list includes continuing the support of statewide innovation and entrepreneurship, continuing to work within the industry to identify gaps in workforce needs, enhance the recruitment and expansion of diverse businesses creating high-wage jobs and promote Arkansas as a desirable place to work, live and play.
“Arkansas is fortunate to be part of statewide collaborative efforts with local entities and private partners to help economic development,” she said. “The state is only as successful as its communities, so it is imperative that our local communities are engaged and successful in promoting their product and resources.”
When it comes to being a part of the AEDC, Hinkle said that it is rewarding to be a part of such passionate team.
“We have an amazingly talented group of individuals in the agency and around the state, who have a heart for economic development,” she said. “[They] are dedicated to doing everything in their power to strengthen communities and improve the lives of citizens around the state.”
For more about the AEDC, visit arkansasedc.com.