City participates in new economic development program

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission announced a new program this week that will help communities across the state be more competitive when trying to attract businesses.

The Competitive Communities Initiative aims to help communities better understand both their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to recruiting new companies and growing their existing businesses.

Four towns were selected for the field test over the past year, including Newport.

"We were pleased and proud to be invited to be a pilot community," Director of the Newport Economic Development Commission Jon Chadwell said. "You see where you're doing well and where you need to improve so it helps you get better."

The checklist from the economic development team will include several areas, from the workforce to infrastructure, according to Gov. Hutchinson.

Chadwell said the consultants pointed out some things the commission can do better in the future.

"There's stuff we can research, there's stuff we can ask our existing community," Chadwell said. "There are professional services we can hire to help us complete the process. There are just little things we need to do to be as competitive as we can with other communities."

Some of that research will include compiling demographic information for the city.

There were positives pointed out during their consultation as well.

"We do have a lot of strengths and we're really proud of them," Chadwell said. "We have available industrial sites that are more prepared than a lot of communities, we've gathered a lot of information over the course of the year, and then we have a dedicated funding stream that helps fund and those are some of the important parts that make an area competitive."

After a community has taken the economic development team's recommendations and modified their plans, they will be certified as a competitive community and added to the AEDC's website for potential investors to find them.

None of the four pilot cities, which also include Hope, Helena-West Helena, and Van Buren, have been certified as competitive communities yet.

Sixteen more towns have already committed to participate in the program.

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