AEDC Moves Its Focus to Quality

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, May. 11, 2009 12:00 am  

Maria Haley: The goal of the AEDC ?is to work together to provide the services that businesses need.?

The international experience has helped because one of the main goals outlined for Haley by Beebe was expanding Arkansas’ presence beyond the region.

“In essence, our competitors are not our neighboring states,” Haley said.

The Tools
The creation of the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund provided a boon to economic development when the Legislature gave it the go-ahead in 2007, Haley said. The original fund consisted of $40 million, of which $180,000 remains. During the 2009 session, the Legislature approved another $50 million for the fund.

Haley said the Legislature and governor’s appropriation of the money has enabled the AEDC to more easily recruit companies to Arkansas. Companies might be looking at multiple sites that meet certain criteria. Incentives from local government agencies can help set one suitor apart, she said.

The money can also be used to keep jobs from leaving the state. The best example, Haley said, was Cooper Tire’s decision to keep its plant in Texarkana. The state provided the company $2 million from the closing fund during negotiations. Of the $39.8 million promised to companies, only $12.3 million has been paid because the money awarded is based on companies meeting goals to receive payment.

Using public money to keep a private entity in state has critics. Haley answers them sharply.

“Who says that when you are keeping hundreds of employees, why would it not be the best use of government funds?”

The moves retained 1,400 jobs and added 350, Holmes said.

“Not only do you look at the direct jobs, but you look at the indirect jobs,” Haley said.



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