Mark Young on Evaluating, Expanding Local Economies

Mark Young, who has led the Jonesboro chamber since April 2006, has built a 25-year career of local and regional economic development in Arkansas as well as Oklahoma and North Carolina.

Young has led local and regional economic development programs in Wynne, Forrest City, Miami, Okla., and Rockingham, N.C. He served as the executive director of the Delta Center for Economic Development at Arkansas State University, 2000-06. Young is president of the Northeast Arkansas Economic Development Coalition. He grew up in Blytheville.

Young graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro in 1987. He became a certified economic developer in 1994.

Q: How competitive is the economic development landscape these days?

A: The competition for economic growth continues to be significant. We are often competing with communities from multiple states and sometimes even other countries. Marketing the strengths of our community, region and state is extremely important in our recruitment efforts.

The Jonesboro City Council recently approved issuing up to $41 million of industrial revenue bonds for Unilever to pay for an expansion that will add about 125 workers. How do economic development officials determine which projects should get this kind of support?

Unilever’s decision to continue to expand in Jonesboro is great for our community. Each project is evaluated to determine what support is needed and appropriate.

When something like the shutdown of Nordex happens, what does the chamber do?

Our first concern is for the workers impacted by the decision. We work to make sure employees have the resources needed to continue to have employment opportunities in our community. This includes immediate job placement, training and working with local and state resources. We then continue the effort to recruit new business and industry to the area and to assist local companies with expansions.

What impact will the NEA Baptist Health System’s medical complex in Jonesboro have on the city?

The construction of the new medical complex has already made a significant impact on the retail and commercial growth of U.S. 49 in the northeast part of Jonesboro. Development includes new medical support facilities, restaurants and commercial businesses. In addition, Jonesboro is fortunate to have two great health care systems that provide quality medical care for Jonesboro and the region.

Does Jonesboro’s location in a dry county hurt or help business recruitment?

Our status as a dry county has not had an impact on our recruitment efforts. What has benefited our recruitment efforts is our quality of life, which includes good schools. We are the proud home of Arkansas State University.

What’s the best advice you ever received about your work?

My dad always encouraged me to find a career that you love, work hard and be yourself.

What game-changing moments occurred on your career path that led to your current position?

Early in my career, a former board member in Oklahoma asked me where I wanted to be in 10 years. I responded by saying I wanted to be the economic developer in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Eleven years later, I had the privilege of joining the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce. Along the way, I have been blessed to work with and learn from many people. That collective experience ultimately led to the opportunity to come home.