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In 1976, a group of professionals and volunteers involved in the economic development of Arkansas organized Arkansas Economic Developers (AED), a non-profit organization to enhance the quality of life in Arkansas by expanding employment opportunities through economic growth and community development. The constitution and bylaws were adopted on September 16, 1988. The organization is associated with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
AED has a board of directors and elected officers. Two directors come from each congressional district, two are at-large directors, and five are ex-officio. The members elect the officers. The board has the authority to develop, approve, and disseminate policy statements concerning economic development in the state.
The organization’s activities have concentrated on educational programs for people seeking a better understanding of economic and community development techniques. In November 1979, the group organized and conducted the state’s first privately sponsored basic industrial development course for local officials and others interested in bringing jobs to their communities. In 1982, the first advanced program was offered for those who had attended the basic course.
The organization implemented a new program known as the Basic Economic Development Course Scholarship Program; the organization covers tuition costs associated with any basic economic development course accredited by the American Economic Development Council. The scholarship is awarded to applicants on a competitive basis.
Membership in AED allows participation in activities that center on educating the economic developer in a rapidly changing field. The annual conference features development experts who address issues affecting the daily activities of those engaged in this work. Seminars are held throughout the year, and the organization serves as a co-sponsor with other development groups for regional meetings throughout Arkansas.
Another annual project, started in 1979, is a statewide competition—the Volunteer Economic Developer of the Year. The Southern Economic Development Council then recognizes the Arkansas recipient. Many Arkansas economic developers are also members of the Southern organization, the oldest regional development council in the United States.
Economic development is extremely competitive, especially between states. A state’s ability to compete rests heavily on the legislative and regulatory climate it can project to prospective industry. As a professional association, AED enables its members to be advocates for the state’s business climate. Furthermore, when legislation or regulation is found to be adversely affecting the state’s ability to attract or expand job opportunities, the membership feels a professional responsibility to make its opinion known. This manifests itself in the organization’s legislative program at the federal and state level.
For additional information:Arkansas Economic Developers. http://www.aed-arkansas.org (accessed October 8, 2014).
Bart Westerlund and Roger ChisholmLittle Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 10/8/2014
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