Alliance looks for new leader

By Wayne Bryan Published August 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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— Bill Wright, president of Southern Bancorp in Arkadelphia and chairman of the Arkansas Regional Economic Development Alliance, said he knew it was only a matter of time before the alliance would be searching for a new chief executive.

“I have always said that economic development professionals are like Methodist ministers,” he said with a smile. “They are here for a while and do a lot of good; then they move on to someplace else. There are not many people out there trained in economic development.”

He said that effective leaders in community development are so rare in Arkansas that it is only natural that there would be a competition for them.

Wright’s remarks followed the resignation of Shawnie Carrier, CEO of the alliance, who has been appointed chief of staff for Tim Hudson, chancellor of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. The announcement was made Aug. 14, and Carrier told the Tri-Lakes Edition that while she is excited about her new position, she is not eager to leave Arkadelphia.

“ASU is my alma mater, and I’m an avid Red Wolves fan. Leaving Arkadelphia will be bittersweet, not seeing so many projects come to fruition,” she said. “I am happy that with the help of so many people, the foundation is there for whoever comes in to carry on in helping Clark County grow and prosper.”

Wright said it is likely that the alliance will contract with a regional economic-development consultant to act as an interim chief executive during a search for Carrier’s successor.

“The day-to-day operations could be handled by the staff,” Wright said, or by members of the board and other volunteers.

Another idea under consideration is to contract with a development firm or professional individual to promote the region to businesses and to handle requests from businesses seeking proposals about locating in Clark County.

“Not all the requests pan out, but it is vital to handle all that come in,” Wright said.

A third idea is to use a consultant while a new executive is being trained for the job.

“We would find someone local with roots in the area and train them for the job,” Wright said. “That might be the best solution.”

Wright said there is no time line set for finding a replacement.

Carrier, a native of Wynne, said she is returning home to east Arkansas and to Arkansas State. As chief of staff at ASU, she will serve as a liaison for Chancellor Hudson with various groups, provide leadership for projects and oversee community development, according to the announcement issued by the university.

Wright said that when Carrier first came to Arkadelphia in June 2008 and joined the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce as director of economic development, the idea of a coordinated alliance to promote business and economic development was only a concept.

“She was able to make it a reality, completing the structure of the alliance,” he said. “Her leadership helped create a base of individuals in the county to not only attract new business but to work to keep existing business in town.”

Among her achievements, Wright highlighted the creation of a regional intermodal authority that secured grants and other funding sources for a $5 million regional rail and truck trans-loading facility, and the recruitment and expansion of businesses in a diverse array of industries.

Two days before the announcement of her resignation, it was announced that Vikon Farms, a California firm, would invest $5.4 million to upgrade a poultry processing plant in Arkadelphia’s Clark County Commerce Park that closed two years ago and would reopen the plant with 172 workers.

“It has not started yet, but the Rainbow of Challenges is coming to the Clark County Business Park and will employ 75 to 100 people,” Wright said.

The project will serve up to 24 developmentally disabled children and have an economic impact to the county in the millions of dollars. The 43-acre park was originally designed for “nonsmokestack” industries but was sold to the nonprofit company by the alliance and the Clark County Industrial Council.

Wright said that just as important to the community’s future is the development of leaders who have volunteered to move the community forward.

He said Leadership Clark County, a volunteer program that has helped open the county’s Boys and Girls Club, also organized a local festival tying in the two universities in Arkadelphia, opened a local farmers market and established a Main Street cleanup and promotional organization for downtown Arkadelphia.

“Her track record of fostering positive community relationships for the Arkadelphia region is something we look forward to here at A-State,” Chancellor Hudson said.

Carrier will begin in her new position at ASU in Jonesboro on Sept. 16.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be contacted at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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