James W. Chesshir, 53
President and CEO
Little Rock Regional Chamber
It has been 11 years since Jay Chesshir joined the organization that recently streamlined its name to Little Rock Regional Chamber. He served as economic development vice president, senior staff executive for Fifty for the Future and executive director of the Metro Little Rock Alliance before being promoted to president and CEO in 2006, the year he was named Arkansas Economic Developer of the Year. Businesses that are members of the 150-year-old chamber represent more than 150,000 full-time and 17,000 part-time employees.
Kathy Deck, 40
Center for Business & Economic Research
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Since she became director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas in 2007, Kathy Deck and her team have produced dozens of economic research reports and have served as a source of strategic information for every industry in Arkansas. Deck is the lead researcher of the Arvest Bank-sponsored Skyline Report, which examines the northwest Arkansas real estate market, and the new Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, which measures the attitudes of Arkansas consumers. Before arriving at UA, Deck worked as an antitrust economist in the Arizona attorney general’s office, examining mergers and acquisitions. She was recently appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Real Estate Industry Council.
Mike Malone, 46
President and CEO
Northwest Arkansas Council, Fayetteville
During a decade leading the Northwest Arkansas Council, Mike Malone has worked to enhance regional infrastructure, economic development and education in the region. From 2009-13, Malone was a member of the Arkansas Lottery Commission. Prior to leading the council, Malone worked for both houses of the United States Congress. He worked at the White House in various roles for six years during the Clinton administration.
Michael R. Pakko, 54
Chief Economist and State Economic Forecaster, Institute for Economic Advancement
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Michael Pakko received his B.A. from Michigan State University in 1984 and a doctorate from the University of Rochester in 1994. Before arriving in Little Rock in 2009, he spent 16 years as a research economist and officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the last three as the Fed’s Little Rock Zone expert. In addition to his research and forecasting responsibilities at IEA — including the annual Arkansas Economic Forecast Conference — Pakko is an active blogger at ArkansasEconomist.com.
Mike Preston, 32
Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Although he was only 31 when Gov. Asa Hutchinson selected him to head the state economic development agency, Mike Preston had already spent more than six years as vice president of government relations for Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that is the principal economic development organization for the Sunshine State. Before joining Enterprise Florida he was the chief of staff for a state senator and a legislative assistant for a state representative. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2005.
John Shelnutt, 59
Administrator for Economic Analysis & Tax Research
Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, Little Rock
John Shelnutt joined the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration as administrator for economic analysis and tax research in 2005. Shelnutt, who earned his doctorate in resource economics from the University of Arizona, previously was the senior research economist and director of research at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Institute for Economic Advancement.
Jim L. Youngquist, 62
Institute for Economic Advancement, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Jim Youngquist has led the Institute for Economic Advancement in the College of Business at UALR since 2008. IEA provides community economic development research, technical assistance and training statewide. The institute is the State Census Data Center, the state economic forecast and GIS center and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration University Center for Arkansas. Before coming to IEA, Youngquist served for more than 20 years as a member of various public service and outreach units at the University of Georgia.
Randy Zook, 71
President and CEO
Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Little Rock
McGehee native Randy Zook has been president and chief executive officer of the State Chamber/AIA since 2008. Before that, Zook was deputy director of administration and finance for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He also spent 34 years with Atlantic Envelope Co. of Atlanta, serving as president and CEO from 1989 to 2004. He is currently chairman of the board of the KIPP Delta public charter schools in Helena.
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