Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Grant Tennille says he’s supportive of efforts to raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, calling it a “jobs creator.”
Tennille, who was a panelist on this week’s “Talk Business & Politics” roundtable, also discussed changes coming to the state’s workforce development efforts and said he’s worried about a low balance in the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund.
Tennille said he has signed a petition to include on the November ballot a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 per hour to $8.50 over a three-year period.
“I think there is a lot of benefit behind raising the minimum wage,” said Tennille. “You will hear from some companies who say it’s a job killer. But what creates jobs is customers. People talk a lot about job creators – the ultimate job creator is a customer with money to spend.”
Tennille also said he is worried about a low balance in the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, which with current commitments has a $6.8 million balance. State lawmakers opted not to replenish the fund with more money in the fiscal session.
“I’m worried about it,” he said. “One option that we have – and we’re going to begin to exercise is – there is an amount of money from the Quick Action Closing Fund that has been promised to projects over the course of – some of them a few years old now – and for whatever reason, the companies haven’t moved forward on the projects. We’ve kept the commitment.”
Tennille said those companies are going to have to pony up a plan or risk losing the money the state has promised.
“What we are going to do is begin to communicate to those companies that we need to see a plan for how you’re going to spend this money beginning in this next fiscal year and if you’re not ready, we may de-obligate that money to you,” he said.
Tennille also touched on three accomplishments in the last session that he said would move economic development efforts forward for the state. They included broadband expansion money for schools, charter school facilities funding, and a restructuring of workforce development efforts.
Link here for a video interview with Tennille.