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Economic Development Side: Local executives hear about state incentive programs

There was an added incentive for local plant managers and manufacturing executives to go to an early morning meeting last Wednesday.

The meeting: The regular May gathering of the Jefferson County Manufacturing Council (JCMC) held at the Economic Development Alliance, which sponsors the group.

The incentive: A discussion of available incentives--state incentives that is--for companies looking to expand their facilities in Jefferson County.

Katherine Gentry, a project manager in the Business Development Division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), was the guest speaker for the 7:00 a.m. breakfast meeting.

Gentry began with a brief overview of the agency’s development teams and their duties. Noting that AEDC’s main “boss” is the governor, she added that the governor and AEDC’s executive director are both widely recognized as being very accessible by executives having potential interest in doing business or expanding in Arkansas.

That reputation of accessibility was reinforced in a short promotional video Gentry played for JCMC members. Shown at conferences and trade shows, the video uses various testimonials to describe for prospective clients “what it will be like in Arkansas.”

According to the video, Arkansas advantages include being an incubator for successful tech businesses, high-quality people, a good quality of life and a lower cost of living. One voice-over referred to these and other features as Arkansas’ “unfair” advantage over every other state.

Gentry also provided copies of an AEDC marketing brochure that provided an overview of Arkansas’ pro-business environment, along with some of the major Arkansas-based companies.

Of particular interest to JCMC members, the brochure contained summaries of numerous state incentive programs for expanding companies, with Gentry noting that one of AEDC’s primary focuses is helping companies in the state with their expansion plans. But an additional focus, she said, is working to attract new businesses and industries to our state.

Using a PowerPoint, Gentry then provided more details about each incentive program and how companies could benefit from tax back or income tax credits, customized training grants, infrastructure assistance, etc. It was noted that Jefferson County, as a Tier 4, high-poverty county, can be eligible for the highest level of benefit from the programs (compared to counties in Incentive Tiers 1-3).

Several attendees asked that the presentation be emailed to them, and Gentry encouraged each JCMC member to contact her with any questions about the individual programs.

Some of the companies represented at the meeting were Tyson Foods, The Strong Company, Evergreen Packaging, L&R Distributors, Arkansas Mill Supply, Western Foods and Twin Rivers Paper Mill.

Before adjournment, there were quick reports on several state-wide and local workforce development initiatives--always of interest to local employers. And Alliance President Lou Ann Nisbett asked for the companies’ help in monitoring litter in the industrial areas.