Editor’s note: This article appears in the June edition of Northeast Arkansas Talk Business & Politics.
Davy Carter is the Regional President for Centennial Bank in Jonesboro. He’a also an attorney, former Arkansas Speaker of the House, and was in the inaugural class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.
A Marianna native and an Arkansas State University graduate, Carter has been in banking for more than a decade-and-a-half. He’s been in his current role in Northeast Arkansas since July 2013.
Talk Business & Politics CEO Roby Brock discussed how the region has changed since his ASU days and what he thinks Northeast Arkansas needs to focus on for the future.
Roby Brock: You’re a son of the Delta, an ASU grad, and you’ve lived in Jonesboro for a few years as an adult. How has the region changed since your college years?
Davy Carter: It’s drastically changed. The area’s just grown a lot since I was here at ASU. It’s become more of a regional hub than it was in the past.
Brock: What do you view as some of the strengths of the regional economy?
Carter: Agriculture still is the big driver and it always will be. Arkansas State doesn’t get enough credit for the economic development opportunities that it generates here. And health care. Those are the big three.
You’re starting to see more professional career opportunities around some of those things. There’s a real effort going on right now with the quality of life discussion about how to continue to attract that caliber of employees that will want to live and work here.
Brock: Let’s talk about what’s missing from Northeast Arkansas. What do you think the region needs?
Carter: We don’t have a commercial air service out of Jonesboro. Yes, you could drive to Memphis. Yes, you could drive to Little Rock. But if you work for a company that requires you to travel, that’s a factor, a big factor that we’re missing out on. So there’s enough businesses right now and, in my opinion, demand out of Northeast Arkansas, that warrants some level of commercial airport service just to get into the system. We’ve got to get to Dallas and Atlanta. If we could do that, coupled with all the other good things that are going on in Northeast Arkansas, I think the region would move.
Brock: What will it take to get a regional airport established like what you’re envisioning?
Carter: First and foremost, it’s money. We have a great airport here, but the runway has to be modified. I think it has to be thickened and just generally improved and I think it’s around $15 million for the infrastructure. Congressional help would be beneficial. I think that investment would return tenfold back on return to the region.
We’ve just got to get the dialogue going. There’s already a big group of people here that are pushing and are very vocal. We’ve got to continue to get the message out and explain.
It’s important for Arkansas State University. The’ve got a lot of things that come along with people coming to town by virtue of the events that go along with the university.
A wise man here recently told me, and I hadn’t thought about this, but God forbid if there is any sort of natural disaster situation that would occur where you can’t effectively get to Memphis – whether that’s earthquake, bridge problems, whatever – we need to be prepared. I mean anything can happen and we don’t like to think about those things. But to be able to have a runway that has that kind of capacity for big, large planes to land. I think as the population grows in Northeast Arkansas, that has to be a factor that’s taken under consideration.