Paul Harvel, chief executive officer of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance, gave the Clark County Quorum Court an annual report Monday on the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Harvel showed the Quorum Court the “doom and gloom” of the economy, showing several national headlines regarding the economic recession. “You can’t ignore it,” he said. “I’ve been in economic development for 41 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
He said there are two prospects he is currently talking to, but did not disclose the name. “It is strictly in the preliminary stages.”
Harvel said he has been communicating with one prospect since November. The other prospect has been looking at the county’s industrial district, and a team of eight people from the prospective company have visited the site — including a human resources director from the company. “We’ve had everyone you want to come down and visit.”
Harvel said he will announce the names of the prospects whether or not they decide to locate in Clark County, and will explain why or why they did not choose this location. The good thing about these two prospects, he said, was that “we found them on our own” rather than having the AEDC “bringing them to us.”
He said a publication is necessary for prospects — showing the location of the industrial park in relation to Interstate 30. An added bonus for prospects, he said, will be the 24-hour child care facility. “It’s a real asset, and I commend you for doing that.” He said the main thing is getting this publication “into the hands of the right people.”
Harvel said he has been looking at existing sites and other potential industrial sites within the county. “For the future, you’ve got to have more industrial sites, but it won’t be three months from now. I have looked at three or four sites.” Harvel said site selection is a task because “you don’t just go out and look at 200 acres. You may not be able to build on just any land.”
He said he has been working on potential sites, and hopes to make an announcement soon. He said CJRW is about 75 percent finished with the EDCCC website.
In April the EDCCC agreed that the Dallas/Fort Worth area is Clark County’s primary target for prospect marketing. Site consultants are hired to look for sites. When the Boy Scouts were looking to locate, they hired a site consultant to look at several areas and report back to other consultants, finally trickling down to the decision of Boy Scouts of America officials. “Very few companies go out without site consultants,” Harvel said.
Since the Dallas/Fort Worth area is the county’s primary target, Harvel noted that the EDCCC is “real lucky” because three important economic development groups are meeting in Dallas, and Shawnie Carrier, executive director of economic development and existing industries program for the EDCCC, will be networking at these meetings.
AEDC met in Dallas in October; the Southern Economic Development Council — the largest economic development group in the South — will be meeting in Dallas in April; and Coronet — a national group of economic development consultants — will be meeting in Dallas in June. “We’re going to come back with names of every big name in economic development in the country,” Harvel said.
He noted that the AEDC is a “real good way to get prospects,” and last week the Alliance hosted the AEDC conference at Iron Mountain Marina. “We have a real good relationship with AEDC.”
The Alliance’s two slogans: “Live life like you’re on vacation” and “Graduate to good living in Clark County” are important for demonstrating something that prospects look at — livability. “Livability and economic development are hand-in-hand,” he said. He noted that the area’s education system is a “big asset”, mixed with DeGray Lake and mountainsides in the western part of the county. “We had the AEDC conference at Iron Mountain for a reason — to show them what we have to sell … You’ve got to capitalize on your livability factor.”
Three actions have been taken to market the county throughout the state. 1) Attending the Governor’s Economic Development and Education Summit (74 Clark County residents were in attendance); 2) Hosting a legislative reception (which was paid for with private money, Harvel said); and 3) Hosting the AEDC Commission meeting.
Another way to market the county is being able to tell prospects about future leaders.
With the 24 participants of Leadership Clark County, this task will not be a problem, Harvel said. Harvel estimated there being about 25 leadership classes in the state. “And we have one of them.”
Harvel unveiled his “dream building” that he is calling the Alliance Building. “It’s in the preliminary stages … and modeled after the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Building.”
He said the Alliance building would not be as big as the Little Rock Chamber Building, which he is responsible for building. “It will be a place for the entire county to use,” he said. He noted that Phil Baldwin, chief executive officer of Southern Bancorp, has also been working on the idea of the building.
The Alliance building would only paid for with private money. “No one nickel of public money would be used for this building,” Harvel said.
A six-page pamphlet detailing a month-by-month EDCCC progress report was also given to members of Quorum Court.