Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and local officials announced that Crossett has completed the Competitive Communities Initiative (CCI) evaluation that aims to ensure the city’s preparedness to successfully compete for jobs and investments. It is the first city in south Arkansas to receive the designation – and the smallest to date.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “Our goal is not just to compete – our goal is to win,” when the program launched last year.
“The great thing about our Competitive Communities Initiative is that all communities can benefit, regardless of location or size,” said AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston. “Crossett may be small compared to our other certified communities, but this process has shown that by focusing on its strengths, Crossett is ready to compete for jobs and projects. With the recent announcement of layoffs at Georgia Pacific, they have an unparalleled ready workforce.”
The program is designed to identify ways a community can be more competitive with regard to their economic development organizational structure, their economic development funding, their workforce, and their product readiness.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the Competitive Community Initiative,” said Mike Smith, executive director of the Crossett Economic Development Foundation. “Like every other community, Crossett has its challenges. But this process has helped our community leaders better identify and understand those challenges so that we can address them and turn them into opportunities. Crossett is a great place to live and work, and now we are more competitive than ever for better jobs and investment.”
Best practices in the field of economic development were used to determine the standards for the Competitive Communities Initiative. A structured and funded economic development organization is imperative, whether it’s focused on a particular town or a whole county, with a strong chamber of commerce partnership. Additionally, there must be a skilled workforce ready to fill jobs and a pipeline of ready workers in the future. Finally, sites should have appropriate infrastructure fit-for-purpose, according to the size of the community and targeted industries, or a plan to provide utilities to the site.
The evaluation for a particular community begins with a commitment to complete an initial questionnaire detailing existing workforce, available and shovel-ready sites, funding sources and information from the community’s economic development organization.
A team of evaluators from AEDC and its partners uses the information to help communities better understand any gaps or weaknesses that could negatively affect economic growth. With assistance from all stakeholders, communities can begin creating an action plan to improve areas that are lacking in their economic development efforts. Once the four pillars are up to standard, a community will be designated through the program as a Competitive Community.
As part of the initiative, Competitive Communities will be featured throughout AEDC marketing efforts. Crossett makes the sixth to be designated as such, joining Paragould, Newport, Russellville, Jonesboro and Little Rock. Competitive Communities in Arkansas must undergo a re-evaluation every two years to maintain their designation.
For more information on the AEDC Competitive Communities Initiative, visit www.arkansasedc.com/cci or call 1-800-ARKANSAS.