Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TOP STORY >> Specialist: Industry benefits everyone

Leader staff writer

Joey Dean of Metro Little Rock Alliance emphasized the importance of a collaborative marketing strategy and told those in attendance at Tuesday’s Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce luncheon a little more about MLRA.

“It (MLRA) was the brain child of some of the business leaders in central Arkansas,” he said.

Dean explained that the organization found marketing individual communities, cities and counties wasn’t effective at recruiting businesses to locate to the area. He said MLRA is now composed of 12 counties within a 60-mile radius of Little Rock that have a population of more than 1 million.

The organization talks with site consultants companies hire when they are thinking of building a new location or relocating. Dean said offering many locations for companies to come to throughout the region, rather than a few in one community, city or county, is appealing.

“It helps them because we’re a one-stop shop…It helps all of us to put all these products on the table. The more we offer the more likely companies are to come here,” he added.

Dean stressed the importance of forming relationships with those consultants, who bring in 60 to 70 percent of the projects MLRA wins when a company decides to move to the region.

He also showed the audience MLRA’s award-winning website and shared the importance of companies already here praising the region.

“I think the best way for us to tell our story is for companies here and that relocate here to tell it,” he continued.

Dean talked about some of the successes MLRA has had, including the recruitment of companies like Dillard’s, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and LM Windpower. He said if the organization had responded as a city or county to the search consultants handled for those companies, they would have been eliminated early on in the selection process.

Dean said the number-one infrastructure that a place can market to businesses is the workforce.

The region has an advantage because MLRA has done a workforce assessment of 24 central Arkansas counties and because of the right-to-work law that allows workers to choose to not unionize even if over 50 percent of the employees at their job do.

He said the deficit found by that evaluation of the workforce was a lack of science, technology, engineering and math skills.

Dean said educational institutions are already using that information in encouraging more emphasis on those areas.

He also told the audience that the state is one of three or four that do not have a budget deficit and that is attractive to businesses that may need to relocate from states like California that have high taxes because of their economic difficulties.

Dean’s main point was that all the success MLRA has experienced is because several entities were united under the common goal of improving the area economically.

“I think one of the biggest successes we’ve had is joining our economic-development efforts and having our chambers of commerce, economic-development organizations and elected officials understand that we are not competing against each other,” Dean said after the luncheon.

“All the communities in central Arkansas are our best and only allies,” he added.