Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston said Thursday (May 12) that the growth in Northeast Arkansas has been keyed by the work in both Jonesboro and Paragould.
Preston, along with members of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, were at the Paragould Community Center Thursday for their monthly meeting. The trip to Paragould was the second trip in about a month for Preston and other state economic development officials.
Texas-based GW Communications announced plans April 28 to hire 28 people to work at its Paragould facility. The company works on broadband services for internet companies in the United States, officials said at the time.
Preston said the work to bring technology based companies to Paragould has been a key part of the area’s growth. Preston credited the “strong economic development teams” in Paragould and Jonesboro, saying that Paragould chamber president Sue McGowen as well as Jonesboro chamber president Mark Young have worked together on a strategy.
Preston said both communities have worked on quality of life and workforce training issues, helping to keep young people in the region.
The commission also heard from Pat Brown, director of Small & Minority Business for AEDC, about work being done to help minority businesses in the state. Brown said the Arkansas Minority Loan Mobilization Program has been successful in helping businesses to succeed.
According to the AEDC website, the program can help businesses with job creation, expansion, repairs, buying machinery and equipment, inventory purchases as well as working capital. Brown said the program has helped 26 businesses in the state since 2012, spending a total of about $1 million. Also, there have been no foreclosures on the funding requests and the program creates a less risky approach to provide funding with its $100,000 cap on funding per business.
Brown said businesses also have to provide a strong business plan as well as business and individual tax records. The plan is being modeled after several states like Florida, Maryland and Wisconsin.
“I thought if they are successful, why aren’t we?,” Brown said of the spending in those states on minority-owned businesses.
She added there will likely be a push to increase the $100,000 cap during the 2017 legislative session. Preston credited Brown with the work on the program.
“Pat does a great job,” Preston said, noting he said he thought it was important to let commission members learn more about the program.