UACES Facebook LeadAR Class 19 Learns Importance of Community and Economic Development in Newport
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LeadAR Class 19 Learns Importance of Community and Economic Development in Newport

by Lisa Davis - March 28, 2022

LeadAR Class 19 had a great seminar in Newport on March 24-25, 2022. The class received a comprehensive overview of integral components of a vibrant local economy--community and economic development--from many community partners and presenters.

According to Robert Pittman, “Community development produces assets for improving the quality of life and business climate, and economic development mobilizes these assets to realize the benefits of the community” (Pittman et al., 2009).

Photo collage of LeadAR seminar in Newport, AR

Here’s an overview and of the itinerary and links to the important community and economic development resources available. Video of overview of the seminar can be watched here

Day One


  • LeadAR was welcomed to Jackson County by Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips. He shared the slogan for Jackson County was “Moving Forward” and this motto was evident throughout our visit.
  • Johnny Moore, chancellor of Arkansas State University-Newport, welcomed the class to the facility and discussed the programs offered on campus.
  • Clint O'Neal, deputy director and executive vice president of global business for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, spoke about the mission of AEDC. He said the mission is primarily attracting higher paying jobs through 1) entrepreneurship, 2) business expansion, and 3) business attraction.
  • Tamika Jenkins, vice president of Mississippi County Economic Development and a LeadAR Class 16 alum, discussed rural development strategies in the Delta. She shared how the county rebranded from cotton to steel.
  • Julie Allen, executive director of the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce, talked about tourism as economic development. Newport has pivoted from two to three major events throughout the year to nearly 40 Monster Night events. Check out the calendar of events here.
  • Andrea Allen, executive director of the Delta Center for Economic Development, shared information about the center, which coordinates the economic development outreach services of Arkansas State University and works to provide a comprehensive approach to serving businesses, governments, and citizens of Arkansas.


  • After lunch, the class boarded a chartered bus to see the economic development efforts in Newport first-hand.
  • Next, Jon Chadwell, executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission, and a LeadAR Class 10 alum, provided an overview of the community and economic development process.
  • The importance of regionalist in economic development was driven home by Graycen Bigger, executive director of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority. The mission of the organization is to create more and better employment opportunities for its region through the recruitment, expansion, and retention of industry and business in each of its partnering entities.
  • Also, small business development resources were highlighted by Whitney Horton, who works as the strategic partnerships manager for the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.


Day Two



  • The afternoon commenced with a discussion of Opportunity Zones by Michelle Perez, senior program officer at Winrock International.
  • Then, planning and development districts were discussed by Regan Miller, an economic development planner at the White River Planning and Development District.
  • Chadwell shared the detailed information on new market tax credits. Learn more here.
  • Next, Esperanza Massana-Crane, director of minority and women-owned business enterprise at AEDC, discussed small and minority business resources including certification and a directory.
  • Mark Conine, president at Arkansas Development Finance Authority, discussed several affordable housing and venture capital programs.
  • To close out the seminar, Steve Jones, building and sites coordinator for AEDC, shared information on the Arkansas Site Selection Center, a tool used to market available commercial properties in the state.

LeadAR owes a huge thanks to Jon Chadwell, Julie Allen, Christel Taylor, and Courtney Baker at the Newport Economic Development Commission and Newport Area Chamber of Commerce for planning an incredible LeadAR Class 19 seminar and their organizations for their sponsorship!

LeadAR is a program designed to help Arkansans broaden their understanding of issues and opportunities facing our state and strengthen their ability to make a difference. For more information about LeadAR, visit the website or contact Robinson,, or Lisa Davis,