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Wal-Mart’s Quinn: Community Leaders Key to Workforce Development

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The International Economic Development Council’s annual Economic Future Forum is underway now and continues Tuesday at the Little Rock Marriott Hotel.

Joe Quinn, senior director of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, spoke about workforce development during the event’s Monday morning session.

“Whatever you’re doing for workforce development, is your superintendent involved? Is your school board involved? Are your local community leaders involved? Are you tied into the two-year community college? Are you tied into the school districts in your region?,” Quinn asked. “Because if you’re not, it’s a miss.”

He also told attendees, “The myth is jobs are not out there. The reality is jobs are out there but it’s all about quality of workforce.”

Quinn admitted that advances in robotics have changed how many employees manufacturers need to hire but also said the American dream is still alive because entreprenuers are still selling new products to the largest retailer in the world.

He talked about how Wal-Mart spends $6.7 billion on products and services provided by Arkansas suppliers.

Quinn also noted that the retailer’s open call event is scheduled for June 28, where 800 to 900 current and potential suppliers can pitch their products to Wal-Mart’s buyers.

Also on the Economic Future Forum’s Monday morning schedule was speaker Jon Harrison, former Caterpillar executive and executive director of VIP2. He said economic development is ultimately about people.

Harrison told attendees that companies aren’t scheming to take jobs overseas, but they also aren’t overly concerned about the loss of American jobs because their focus is maximizing profits, minimizing costs and remaining competitive.

He argued that investing in workers’ skills and training leaders here is more cost effective than off-shoring jobs.

Also on Monday’s agenda is a keynote address at noon by Rodney Slater, partner for Squire Patton Boggs and former U.S. secretary of transportation.

Other speakers for the event that kicked off on Sunday include Tom Stellman, president and CEO of TIP Strategies; Del Boyette, president and CEO of Boyette Strategic Advisors; former Acxiom Corp. CEO Charles Morgan, who is now chairman and CEO of First Orion; and Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Agribusiness, the home health care industry, entrepreneurship, cybersecurity and more will be discussed.

For more information on the sessions, go here.

The event also includes tours of the Little Rock Port Authority, the Little Rock Technology Park and Venture Center, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and the National Center for Toxicological Research. A networking reception will be held at the Clinton Library.

Partners in the event include the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, AEDC, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, Hot Springs Metro Partnership, Entergy Arkansas, Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce and OGE Energy Corp.

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