Frank D. Scott, Jr: Growing Arkansas, Sowing Seeds In Fertile Ground

by Frank Scott, Jr. ([email protected]) 199 views 

Last week, Arkansas entered a new and evolving era in business and politics with the inauguration of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. And I believe it will usher in a significant change in our state’s political structure that will strongly affect the marketplace.

An opportunity exists for those who are committed to the forward movement of our state, to identify and propose new ideas for our state’s economic future.

Here are some of mine:

As a banker focused on commercial lending and market strategy, I’ve gained insight from business owners concerning their thoughts on our state’s economic policies that both the executive and legislative branches could pursue.

One of the recurring thoughts is centered on the very productive Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund (QACF), led by Gov. Beebe and the legislature in 2007, that recruited and retained approximately 30,000 new jobs to the state amid the Great Recession.

The QACF is a great public-policy tool that is needed to compete for new jobs and it should be reauthorized. However, there is a desire to look at developing options to balance out our state’s economic development strategy of utilizing tax incentives targeted towards out-of-state companies to the Natural State, and shift to a stronger focus on growing Arkansas businesses that are invested and committed to our state. In a nutshell, the thought is “Let’s Grow Our Own.”

One idea to include in our state’s economic development toolbox is to consider developing an Arkansas Business Growth Fund specifically for fostering strategies to expand and sow the overall growth of our business seeds.

Let’s make room for rapid experimentation by expanding our state’s number of technology parks to abide in each region based on each region’s economic culture and unique assets.

No need to reinvent the wheel – this regional concept could be mirrored after North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, but with an Arkansas imprint. How could the Arkansas Economic Development Commission leverage existing resources to encourage this type of activity through public-private partnerships without creating new governmental entities? Just a question to provoke a thought on how Arkansas could support and expand its sources of capital.

Let’s rethink our corporate tax structure, not to solely reduce it, but to streamline and realign our entire structure to foster an environment of job creation. When we take measures to encourage entrepreneurship through the measured reduction and simplification of taxation on businesses, from an intangible perspective, it increases the chances of future businessmen and businesswomen to go into business for themselves.

“…But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.”

One of my favorite parables is “The Parable of the Sower.” While I’m an ordained minister, please don’t worry, I’m not about to teach this parable or take on any evangelistic liberties.

Although from an economic perspective, the art and science of “Sowing Seeds in Fertile Ground” is pretty telling. Arkansas’ diverse lineage of growing its own is in our state’s DNA. We’re pretty prideful about our economic diversity and longevity.

What would Arkansas look like if the fathers and mothers of the households that ignited the drive and perseverance to create and sustain Walmart, Tyson, J.B. Hunt, and our agriculture community at-large did not pursue their dreams and take risks? Let’s not forget about the many businesses that aren’t recognized enough for employing thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens of Arkansans everyday. Business ownership is a true ministry.

An overarching thought is: how do we encourage our generation’s Sam Waltons, J.B. Hunts, or John Tysons to get in the life’s journey of entrepreneurship by taking a calculated risk?

It’s most likely not the tangible result of any particular tax policy or incentive program. Our state’s business giants were risk takers by disposition, essentially they were wired to create. So, let’s consider turning our attention to removing barriers to entrepreneurship entry in the marketplace.

Our state’s economic and labor leaders should identify institutional reforms and deregulate business regulations that are archaic, stifle growth, and discourage entrepreneurs from realizing their dreams. Regulations are needed; however, overreaching regulations harms productivity of existing in-state businesses and curb innovation from future entrepreneurs. Consequently, these type of reforms will develop an environment built on the nexus of economic freedom and job creation.

While the 90th General Assembly is in its genesis phase, the impending results will certainly be saturated with the purpose of taking Arkansas’ economy to higher heights, led by Gov. Hutchinson. My hope is that centrist and common-sense strategies will focus on “Growing Arkansas.”