LR Chamber chief says pipeline of projects best in his lifetime

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,533 views 

Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jay Chesshir said he has not seen more robust potential for economic development than he’s seeing right now.

“I’ve been in this business now for 30 years. We have never in my career had a pipeline like we have today… in a very good way,” Chesshir said. “Our problem is working with our partners across the region and developing more product. If we don’t have sites, if we don’t have buildings, then we don’t have product to sell.”

He said the Central Arkansas cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Conway are growing and on many radars for potential projects, but he also noted Searcy, Pine Bluff and Lonoke are also seeing an uptick in calls to go along with other high-growth communities like Cabot, Benton and Bryant.

Citing recent statistics, Chesshir said some of the eastern region of Central Arkansas development has been a little surprising.

“You go back a decade prior and while there was some growth in the region, it was in very spotty areas. It’s interesting to me that with the growth that we’re now seeing, have seen and expect to look at over the next several years, there’s now growth on the eastern side of the region and there’s a lot of folks that would’ve never expected that,” he said.

“When you look at the in-migration into the region today, it’s because they’re choosing to either come back or come to a place that they feel like is more like home,” he added.

Chesshir said a campaign to recruit talent back to Central Arkansas has been successful.

“When we started our talent attraction campaign a couple of months ago, where we are mining social media across the United States and the world, we now have over 650 resumes and applications from people in 33 different states and nine different countries, giving them a reason. If they’ve never thought about Arkansas and Central Arkansas in particular, we’re giving them a reason to look at us,” he said.

This past week, Dollar General reaffirmed its commitment to complete its $140 million distribution facility in North Little Rock that will employ 300 new workers. Chesshir said the Little Rock metro has been focused for the last 20 years on landing more distribution and warehouse projects, in part due to the Little Rock Port and the river, rail and road infrastructure in Central Arkansas.

Advanced manufacturing and financial technology have been other areas for recruiting, and he hinted that healthcare – another strategic growth focus – would present more announcements soon.

“I talk about our economy being a lot like a huge battleship. It’s really hard to turn those things very quickly, but their momentum keeps them moving forward. We’re trying to take that velocity of growth that Metroplan is talking about and increasing it through, adding to what we’re already good at – healthcare. It’s a huge piece of our strategy right now. And you’re going to be hearing more about that in the not-so-distant future,” he said.

You can watch Chesshir’s full interview in the video below.