Jonesboro Unlimited, the city’s economic development organization, launched a multi-million dollar job creation effort five years ago known as Momentum Jonesboro. Its goal was to create 2,500 jobs in five targeted sectors.
More than 4,000 jobs were created through the initial effort and $500 million in capital investments have been made, Ernst and Young National Director of Economic Development Advisory Services Amy Holloway said Tuesday (Aug. 3).
She spoke at JU’s launch of its Momentum Jonesboro 2.0 at the Fowler Center on the Arkansas State University campus.
The new 2.0 initiative will officially launch in January.
“This plan truly builds off the successes Jonesboro has seen over the last five years,” Holloway said, “We have taken all that momentum and focused it into a plan that will continue to enhance and develop Jonesboro as a city where companies can invest and grow while maintaining a great quality of life.”
Specific goals or targets of the new five year plan were not announced, but the organization has spent months working with local businesses, conducting surveys, and interviews and meeting with focus groups to determine what the city and region need to do to grow the economy, Holloway said.
One consistent comment they received from stakeholders was keeping and acquiring talented workers, Holloway said. Transportation, expanded bike and hiking trail access, better commercial airport service, housing, childcare, and other quality of life metrics will be key elements in the next phase.
Future efforts will still stay within the five targeted sectors – healthcare, advanced manufacturing, professional services, logistics, and agriculture – only agriculture and manufacturing will be combined so there will be four sectors, JU President Mark Young said.
“There are so many aspects of our plan to get excited about,” Young said. “By building off the success of our first strategic plan, we are continuing to position Jonesboro as a community where business and investment can thrive. And with that comes jobs.”
With the success of the first plan, it was only natural to try and recreate it during the next half decade, JU Chairman Chris Barber said.
“We were confident we could reach the goals we set in 2017,” said Barber, who serves as CEO of St. Bernards Health System. “What we didn’t expect was that we would exceed them so thoroughly. It’s a great indicator of Jonesboro’s economic strength and something to be proud of.”
Business growth and retention, talent and workforce development, quality of life and infrastructure, and branding and marketing will be the key elements of the new plan, Holloway said. Developing a community that encourages entrepreneurs and start-up businesses is another key, she said. COVID-19 has thrown a serious curveball into economic development, but Holloway said she remains hopeful that even as some opportunities vanish, others will present themselves.
“I’m an optimist. I look for the opportunities that can come out of a situation like this,” she said.