Exploring the past, present and future of economic development in Clark County was the primary purpose of Monday’s Clark County Community Economic Development and Leadership Conference.

Exploring the past, present and future of economic development in Clark County was the primary purpose of Monday’s Clark County Community Economic Development and Leadership Conference.
The event, sponsored by Winrock International, welcomed approximately 60 individuals to the grand ballroom at Henderson State University.
Dr. Lewis Shepherd, executive director of the HSU Center for Economic Development and Community Engagement, the center serves the purpose of engaging Clark, Hot Spring and Garland counties to explore economic development from a regional perspective.
“All three of those counties are currently active in the Metro Little Rock Alliance, which is a group of 11 counties,” Shepherd explained.
While the counties in the MLRA may not have everything in common, Shepherd said each county is able to offer something to the other counties.
“We can’t pull off a major industry without some help from Garland or Hot Spring counties. I don’t think they could together a major economic prospect without involving the people of Clark County,” Shepherd said.
In addition to reviewing economic development in Clark County, Shepherd said the purpose of the conference was to bring together past and present elected officials and economic development leadership.
Quorum Court members and mayors from each of Clark County’s incorporated towns were invited to attend the conference.
“We want all of us to have the latest, up-to-date information on our pursuit of economic development endeavors. We want you to be able to take that information back to your communities and constitutes so that they may also have that information,” Shepherd said.
Bill Wright presented an overview of economic development in Clark County since 1952.
“We want to look at where we started back in the early 50s to where we are now and the opportunities we have now, as well as where we can go in the future,” said Shepherd.
Mark Young, president/CEO of Jonesboro Unlimited served as the luncheon speaker.
“The reason I felt the importance of Mark being here is that he was very, very instrumental with the growth of Jonesboro and Craighead County,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd noted Jonesboro has grown over the years from only a few thousand to approximately 70,000 residents, while Craighead County’s population is approximately 100,000.
“Either the census collectors can’t count, or we’ve got some issues why we can’t grow. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand how our census numbers stays the same. Everyday I’m seeing folks I have never seen in my life,” said Shepherd.
In addition to taking a look at the past, present and future regarding economic development in Clark County, a session was also planned to address workforce development and the financial stability needed to accomplish economic development projects.
“In order to widen Pine Street, you are going to need some money upfront to do it. It’s not going to be free. With growth comes growing pains,” said Shepherd.
According to Shepherd, past accomplishments, Monday’s endeavors and future efforts will help to shape of Clark County for the next 50 to 75 years.
“It is important, it is vital and I think it is sacrificial,” Shepherd said.
 
 
Read about past economic development endeavors in an upcoming edition of the Siftings.