May 25, 2016 Edition

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Dana Kelley (from left) with Allied Ag Cat visits with Arkansas Economic Development Commission representatives Becky Rheinhardt, Tiffny Calloway and LaJuana Delph during a recent meeting regarding a new business retention and expansion program in Lawrence County and Northeast Arkansas.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Business retention effort underway

Gretchen Hunt
Editor

Current business and industry owners, along with Lawrence County Chamber representatives and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, met recently to discuss a new Business Retention and Expansion Program.

LaJuana Delph, a specialist in the area of business retention with the AEDC, spoke about the merits and benefits of a BR&E Program.

"Economic development is more than just bringing in new industries and businesses," Delph said. "You have to take care of your existing businesses, but you have to have a strategy."

She said some of the benefits of having a retention and expansion program are opening a line of communication with existing businesses, promoting job growth, having the opportunity to build relationships and being able to help resolve issues.

The establishment of this regional effort, which includes Lawrence County, is being funded through a USDA Rural Business Development Grant.

Frankie Gilliam with the ASU Delta Center for Economic Development explained that five counties are involved in the program. They will be working within their counties to gather information to help existing businesses throughout the region.

A second part of the grant involves developing a workforce for agriculture, and plans are underway for a one-day symposium for high school and college students entering the field of agriculture.

The BR&E Program will begin with leadership and team development, and then volunteers will begin surveying existing businesses and industries.

Fran Cavenaugh, who is serving as executive director of the Lawrence County Chamber, said it is important for businesses to know they are important to this effort regardless of whether or not they are Chamber members.

"When you get a call asking for 30-45 minutes of your time, please take the time to visit with us," Cavenaugh said. "It is going to take all of us working together."

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