Jonesboro jobs rise despite economic headwinds

by George Jared ([email protected]) 624 views 

Despite a global pandemic, record inflation, rising interest rates and supply chain disruptions, Jonesboro Unlimited, the city’s economic development organization, reported Monday (Feb. 27) that during the last year the city had experienced robust job growth.

At least 576 jobs were created in the city’s target sectors – healthcare, advanced manufacturing, professional services, logistics, and agriculture – during the last year, JU President Mark Young said. In 2017, JU established a goal of creating 4,000 jobs in those target sectors with about $500 million in capital investments, he said.

Those goals were met and surpassed and by 2021 a new campaign Momentum Jonesboro 2.0 was launched with similar goals in mind. During the last year, $159 million has been invested in those targeted industries in the Jonesboro area, and with it, almost $1 billion has been invested during the last six years, he added.

“2022 was a great year and we think 2023 will be a great year, too,” Young said. “Our strategic plan is our roadmap.”

One focus of the plan has been the development of the Craighead County Technology Park, CTP South, located in the Jonesboro Industrial Park. Steven Lamm, JU’s vice president for economic development, said CTP will play a critical role in attracting new industries along with expansions of existing ones.

The 612-acre park sits at the confluence of I-555 and Nestle Road. The park was selected by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to receive master-planning grants to help develop the site.

JU Chairman of the Board Chris Barber noted that during the last year 800,000 square feet of construction was completed for various projects inside the Technology Park. Colson USA, Spirit Fitness, Camfil APC, Hytrol, and Fed Ex were among the companies who have projects in the park.

One issue that JU has tackled during the last year is a new branding effort, JU Director of Communications Craig Rickert said. Even though many of the city’s organizations that are dedicated to economic development are connected such as JU, the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Jonesboro, there’s no way to tell that if you do a simple internet search.

To fix that problem, these organizations and others adopted a similar color and font scheme with their logos and added a distinctive star to those logos to represent connectivity, he said. A tagline for Jonesboro “Always Moving” has also been introduced.

Quality of life metrics will be key to economic development as the mid-decade approaches, Young said. Efforts are underway to improve those metrics. One thing that the Chamber and JU have done is to add cost of living calculators to its web site to let people who are thinking about moving to Northeast Arkansas’ largest city know how affordable it is to live there, he added.

Another feature on the website that has been improved is the jobs feature. Since its launch last September, it has had more than 17,000 hits, Young said.

“You have to have a vision. You have to have a plan. You also have to have the talent to execute that plan,” Barber said.