Del Boyette on Maintaining Economic Development in Arkansas

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013 12:00 am  

Del Boyette

Del Boyette was an Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 at the age of 37 in 1994, the first class.

Boyette was executive director of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (now the Arkansas Economic Development Commission) from 1993 to 1997. He went on to become the deputy commissioner for economic development for the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism, eventually forming his own economic development consulting company, Boyette Strategic Advisors, and returning to Arkansas.

Q: What does Boyette Strategic Advisors do? Who are your clients, either generally or specifically?

A: BSA offers strategic thinking, combined with creativity and flexibility, to provide solutions for a wide range of clients, including companies, communities, organizations, educational institutions and government agencies. Our clients include the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley; the states of Alabama, Florida and Kentucky; and the Tennessee Valley Authority. BSA has also worked with several economic development organizations in Arkansas.

How does your work with your clients differ from the job you had two decades ago as director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission? How have the expectations of businesses changed?

When I was appointed executive director of AEDC, I was an economic development practitioner and 36. During the last 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to expand on my experience by leading a national practice area at a “Big Four” firm in Atlanta and have a deeper understanding of what’s most important to business and industry as they make investment decisions. I think expectations of businesses have changed across the board, from concerns about short- and long-term costs to changing workforce needs. However, the area of sustainability may represent the most significant change in corporate expectations and direction. BSA is the first economic development firm in the country to “connect the dots” as it relates to sustainability and economic development.

What do you think Arkansas is doing right when it comes to industrial and economic development?

Gov. Beebe has, from day one, pursued a holistic approach to economic development. His goal has been to win the right projects for Arkansas, not just compete for those projects. I happen to be the person who suggested the Quick Action Closing Fund to him back during the 2006 campaign, believing that Arkansas had to make a bold step to be competitive. The governor took the idea and ran with it. As a result, we’ve seen Arkansas compete for and win projects when we otherwise would not be competitive.

What could Arkansas be doing better?

I think our economic development marketing efforts need to be enhanced. Arkansas has a unique and very good story to tell. However, the economic development marketing budget has been the same for more than 20 years. Think about the changes in marketing tools and tactics that are available today compared with 20 years ago.

What are the biggest challenges the state has when it comes to economic development? What are Arkansas’ biggest assets?

Arkansas’ greatest assets are companies like Wal-Mart, Stephens, Acxiom, Tyson and J.B. Hunt that began here, stayed here, grew here and have committed to be an integral part of Arkansas’ success. Term limits may be among our biggest challenges, not just from an economic development perspective, but in terms of governing our state. The continual turnover in our elected leaders has a tremendous impact on the overall understanding of economic development, with a lack of institutional knowledge that may put us at a disadvantage.

(What would have Boyette done differently since 1994? See Del Boyette Offers 3 Wishes as Advice for Path to Success.)

 

 

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