Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and local officials today announced Russellville has completed the Competitive Communities Initiative evaluation that aims to ensure the city’s preparedness to successfully compete for jobs and investments.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “Our goal is not just to compete – our goal is to win,” when the program launched in March.
“The Competitive Communities Initiative has forced us to take a hard look at not only our strengths but also our weaknesses,” says Paul Harvel, president and CEO of the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Valley Alliance For Economic Development. “By learning how we can work to maximize what’s good about our city, we feel Russellville is in a better position to compete for new projects with good-paying jobs.”
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.
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.
“We’re excited to recognize Russellville as the newest city to achieve certification through the Competitive Communities Initiative,” says Mike Preston, AEDC executive director. “The work done by the community leaders involved in this process will enable Russellville to better position itself to win expansion and new location opportunities.”
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.
Communities that meet the standards of the initiative will be featured throughout AEDC marketing efforts. Competitive Communities in Arkansas must undergo a re-evaluation every two years to maintain their designation.
For more information on AEDC’s Competitive Communities Initiative, visit http://info.arkansasedc.com/cci or call 1-800-ARKANSAS.