I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks attending some of the most fun and informative events around southeast Arkansas. This is the best part of serving, meeting and visiting with you, the constituents. The events I’ve attended include Boys State, Chamber of Commerce, Alumni Events, Community Awareness events, Legislative Committee, and more. This is why I know that more than ever, we legislators are tasked with developing constituent interests in our state, especially rural localities such as are in District 11.
I am in the process of preparing for town hall meetings. I have taken some time to do this, because I want to make sure that I am well-versed in the upcoming legislative changes that will affect our local communities. Forty-one percent of the State’s population live in rural counties. Contrary to National numbers, only 14 percent of the population in the United States are represented by rural communities. That is why Arkansas legislators met at the annual Rural Development Conference this past week.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission organizes and designs the conference for anyone interested improving the quality of life for rural Arkansans. The purpose of this annual event is to provide attendees working knowledge on programs and assistance available to community leaders and residents for planning, development, and revitalization efforts.
At the conference, Governor Hutchinson awarded over a half of million dollars in grants to 49 counties and cities throughout Arkansas. These monies are typically allocated for three program areas for rural service grants: the Arkansas Unpaved Roads Grant Program, the County Fair Building Grant Program, and the Rural Community Grant Program. Eligibility on all of these programs requires 50 percent matching. Among the positive outcomes of the conference, more great news emerged for women and minority-owned businesses who have benefited from the Enterprise Legislative Division.
The Women and Minority-Owned Division promotes sustainability and growth of such businesses by providing professional development opportunities. Such opportunities include but are not limited to technical assistance, contracting and capital with new business, networking, and certification. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) partners with the state along with the federal government supplementing these opportunities via higher education, finance, and private sector institutional participation. The AEDC also works to encourage and increase minority and women-owned businesses which represent only 14.7 and 25 percent of all businesses in the state of Arkansas respectively. The AEDC also assists new and existing disadvantaged businesses with workforce training expansion. Further state agencies such as the Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) program further supplements this initiative. The Career Readiness Certificate is a portable credential that signals to potential and existing employers that applicants possess basic skills in applied mathematics, reading, and locating information. The CRC has qualified almost 60,000 high-skilled workers as a result.
Each week I like to share informative as well as useful information that constituents might possibly use to better themselves or their communities. If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682- 6211.