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Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on How Little Rock Zoned In on Amazon

3 min read
Born and raised in Little Rock, Frank Scott Jr. is the first African-American elected mayor of Little Rock and was sworn in on Jan. 1, 2019.

Scott graduated from Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Memphis and an MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He spent five years on the staff of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, first as deputy policy director and then as director of intergovernmental affairs. He then joined Searcy-based First Security Bank as a community banker in Little Rock, and he is a former member of the Little Rock Port Authority board of directors and of the Arkansas Highway Commission.

Were there any COVID responses that you would do differently in hindsight? If there is a second wave, what is your plan?

While Little Rock was an early and assertive leader in putting protective policies in place, I would have instituted our city’s COVID-19 Healthcare Task Force in late February rather than early March. Our task force, rooted in data and health care expertise, provided immeasurable counsel. If there’s a second wave, we will strengthen our previous modified shelter-in-place policies.

Do you foresee any new city ordinances arising from the pandemic?

We are still in the pandemic and look forward to the after-action report we will draft when the crisis slows. COVID-19 has revealed many strengths and a few chances for improvement in Little Rock. We had an emergency preparedness plan, but we will be bolstering it to ensure effective responsiveness to the needs of employees and residents. We’ll consider operational adjustments to our internal systems, policies and practices to better serve our employees. Our policy team has already identified initiatives to address city concerns — like homelessness, hunger and small-business assistance — that the crisis exacerbated.

I am pleased and proud of the leadership and professionalism of our team at the city of Little Rock; they have been a steady hand during very tumultuous times.

How did the Port of Little Rock land the Amazon project? How long was it in the works before Arkansas Business broke the news on April 3?

The relationship with Amazon began about a week after Little Rock launched the Love, Little Rock campaign in late October 2017. Little Rock had taken itself out of the running for HQ2, so the discussions that followed focused on what role central Arkansas could play in Amazon’s footprint. That led to the location of Amazon’s temporary facility in North Little Rock.

Discussions continued about the possibility of a regional facility in central Arkansas, and those discussions picked up steam immediately after I took office in January 2019 and continue to this day as the company continues to refine and update its global planning.

Amazon hasn’t expressed interest in traditional economic-development incentives, but it is clear that they look for and value relationships with local partners who can be responsive at the rate of speed the company expects. Our Planning and Public Works departments are working overtime to ensure that the company gets what it needs to meet its timelines.

And we have not one major Amazon project, but two. The other is a Last Mile Delivery Service operation located in southwest Little Rock with a projected count of 600 jobs. Everyone is hastening toward the day when thousands of Arkansans go to work for one of the fastest-growing enterprises in the world. 

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