Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics profiles three professional associations to explore the business, industry, governmental and not-for-profit agencies impacting law, commerce and goodwill across the state. The magazine tells their stories to give readers a better understanding of who they are, where they stand and the positions they are backing.
Associated General Contractors of Arkansas
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is the leading association for the construction industry. AGC represents more than 26,000 firms, including over 6,500 of America’s leading general contractors, and over 9,000 specialty-contracting firms. More than 10,500 service providers and suppliers are also associated with AGC, all through a nationwide network of chapters.
For the past 80 years, AGC Arkansas has worked tto promote the construction industry with its governmental relations efforts.
“We are an organization that looks after the interests of general contractors in Arkansas,” says Joey Dean, executive vice president of AGC Arkansas.
AGC Arkansas heavily advocates for an environment in which contractors of all kinds can thrive, according to Dean. In order to do so, the AGC Legislative Committee meets once a week during regular legislative sessions to discuss the association’s position on construction-related bills and determine the proper strategy to advocate that position.
Among the organization’s top priorities is highway funding. The AGC Highway Division works directly with the Arkansas State Highway & Transportation Department through a signed agreement. Dean states that AGC wants to “make roads better and safer for everyone.”
The organization works closely with the Arkansas General Assembly. Because of AGC’s efforts, a proposed constitutional amendment to make the existing half cent highway sales tax a permanent fixture will appear on the 2020 ballot.
“This is not a new tax,” Dean says; the amendment will just ensure that the tax will not go away.
When a company joins AGC Arkansas, it also gains membership to AGC of America. It is through these organizations that companies have the opportunity to experience a network of contractors throughout the nation. Dean sees this as a great marketing tool for members.
A large part of what AGC Arkansas does for its community of contractors is safety training and educational seminars. It offers numerous safety training sessions related to all areas of the construction industry taught by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as other safety experts. To keep members updated on construction business issues, AGC Arkansas sponsors educational seminars conducted by industry experts.
The association and the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation have partnered to provide apprenticeship programs all around the state. From a carpentry program in North Little Rock and a glazier program in Little Rock and Springdale to electrical programs offered in every corner of the state, AGC Arkansas is always working to build a better tomorrow for the construction industry for our state.
Arkansas Bar Association
The Arkansas Bar Association (ArkBar) is a voluntary bar association that has served the legal profession since 1898. With roughly 5,300 members, ArkBar strives to represent all of its members by providing services that support the practice of law and promotes the profession, such as furnishing updates on recent case law, and regulatory and legislative changes that directly affect the practice of law.
“Unity of purpose is important to the legal profession,” said Executive Director Karen K. Hutchins. “The energy and momentum created by lawyers of varied backgrounds, age, gender, race and geographic location enable the association to serve lawyers in a way that is not possible without the unity that occurs when a group focuses on common objectives.
“While the tangible member benefits, such as free quality legal research, are worth more to a member than the cost of dues, the intangible value of the relationships that are formed are priceless,” she added.
Since the legal profession is moving toward more virtual communities, the community of lawyers found in the association is more important now than ever. The association serves as a central point of engagement for participating in pro bono work, educating the public about legal issues and helping to maintain the integrity of the legal profession.
ArkBar is building community leaders throughout the state through leadership training and public service opportunities. ArkBar recently created a Public Service Academy, a program developed for member lawyers who wish to serve in public service on the local, state or federal level.
ArkBar members also give back to their communities. The Law Related Education committee helps with high school mock trial competitions and sends volunteers into classrooms to teach civics. Members also participate in Wills for Heroes legal clinics, offer disaster relief legal assistance and volunteer for AR Free Legal Answers. They also create free legal pamphlets for the public, including “18 & Life to Go: A Legal Handbook for Young Arkansans.”
One of the biggest issues facing the legal community in Arkansas is ensuring that the public has access to a fair administration of justice. It is more important than ever to make legal services easily available and affordable through technology. Virtual law practices continue to expand the ability to obtain legal services more quickly. The unbundling of legal services provides the ability to hire an attorney for parts of a legal issue, which in turn offers the public new and more affordable options.
As part of its mission, ArkBar focuses on improving the legal system in Arkansas, assisting in the enactment of laws and serving as the trusted and collective voice at the State Capitol. ArkBar is unique in that every bill filed and every law passed directly impacts its members and the practice of law. The group works full time to monitor legislative and regulatory issues affecting the administration of justice and the practice of law on behalf of its members.
The Arkansas Bar Association has been supporting Arkansas families and businesses across the state for over 120 years. Lawyers pledge to serve the public when taking the attorney oath of admission, and this association provides a unique way for lawyers to do that.
Arkansas Press Association
Founded in 1873, the Arkansas Press Association (APA) is the oldest professional association in the state. The APA serves more than 250 members that include newspapers, suppliers, manufacturers, educators, media organizations and individuals.
The APA, whose motto is “Free Press, Free People,” provides its members with the information and education to allow them to grow and compete within the market.
“In unity, there’s strength, and the APA is a strong force in education, policy-making and marketing for the newspaper industry,” says Ashley Wimberly, the group’s executive director.
Members of the association have access to advertising and circulation conferences as well as many other seminars and workshops throughout the year. The association also issues press identification cards to working journalists and hosts networking events for members. The APA works hard to not only aide in the industry but also to acknowledge the talent in journalism in Arkansas.
“Our annual Better Newspaper Advertising and Editorial awards for APA members recognize the best talent in the field of journalism in Arkansas,” she says.
Print media is sometimes referred to as a dying industry, but more than 10,000 Arkansans work in the industry, serving the public every day. Reporting from good journalists is what holds our nation together, according to Wimberly.
“As stewards of democracy,” she says, “our newspapers are the watchdogs that make sure that our tax money is spent wisely and efficiently so our state remains attractive to business and industry and weathers economic downturns.”
Wimberly adds that the association has spent the last few years fighting the perception that all news is “fake news.”
“Frankly,” she says, “for APA member newspapers, the agenda is the right one: ‘To provide a community service and inform readers about what’s going on in their communities.’”
In addition to combating the “fake news” crisis, the APA is focused on the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, one of the best open records and open meetings laws in the country, according to Wimberly. She states, “As champions of transparency, we remind the legislature about the centuries-old custom of publishing public notices.”
As for what comes next for the media industry, Wimberly sees a time of transition. “Arkansas newspapers are exploring the business models that best fit their needs,” she says, “and for most it’s a mix of print and digital that has been and will continue to be successful. I’m encouraged by the innovative spirit of APA members who are always looking for ways to improve their product and serve their community.”