BCN Staff – Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 – Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on Tuesday held a live stream news conference with top chamber, business leaders and city officials to call attention to the thousands of new jobs that have landed in Arkansas’ city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday (Feb. 5), Scott gave an exclusive interview to BlackConsumerNews.com, where he discussed in detail his “economic development wins” as the city’s “Chief Growth Officer.” Scott is the first duly elected black mayor of Arkansas’ largest city after his historic win in November 2018.
Among his big job recruitment efforts since his first State-of-the-City address in March 2019 is bringing estimates of between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs to Central Arkansas’ 348,000-worker nonfarm labor pool, including a new 1,000-worker Amazon Fulfillment Center, a 15,000 square foot Trader Joe’s grocery store, and 32-acre Costco warehouse membership club and plaza.
In his earlier interview with BlackConsumerNews.com Executive Editor Wesley Brown and BCN Chief Creative Officer Angel Burt on KABF FM last week, Scott also talked about his economic development strategy and his efforts to rejuvenate urban areas of the city that have long been neglected. His master plan includes the Asher Avenue Corridor revitalization project and what he calls the “South of I-630-East of I-30” economic development incentive plan to spur new development to all areas of the city.
At the time, Scott said he is now immersed in talks with another manufacturing company to locate some of its operations to an industrial space on Asher Avenue. He also mentioned during his interview with the Black-owned online news group that he has also asked city staff to move forward with his plan to increase the percentage of business the city does with Black and minority-owned businesses from 14% to 25%.
“We want to be intentional in every area of our minority spend,” said Scott.
During his virtual press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Scott was surrounded by Little Rock Chamber President CEO Jay Chesshir, AT&T Arkansas President Ronnie Dedman, Entergy Arkansas CEO Laura Landreaux, and Mainstream Technologies President John Burgess, the current chairman of the chamber and Little Rock Technology Park Authority. Also, attending the event were Little Rock’s newest City Director Antwan Phillip, City Director,Vice Mayor Lance Hines, and Cathy Tuggle, president of Arkansas Suites.
Scott said he brought those top business and city officials together to share the “good news” of Little Rock’s recent historic growth in 2020.
“We stand here today demonstrating that Little Rock and Central Arkansas’ partnership as it relates to economic development and job growth. Like any city in America, you experience challenges,” said Scott. As an example, he cited the ongoing pandemic, the city’s historic flooding in the spring of 2019, social and civil protest this summer, the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., and “the greatest recession since the Great Depression.”
“But in spite of it all, the city of Little Rock and Central Arkansas has experienced historic year-over-year jobs growth,” said Scott, noting U.S. Labor Department metrics that compares regional employment against prior year data. “We experienced announced jobs of close to 4,000 new (hires) here in the city of Little Rock, as well projections to almost double. We are excited about this new day as we serve as a catalyst to the new South.”
“But more important, it is more than just the numbers. When we think about these jobs, these jobs mean resources to families here in the (region), the ability to provide benefits and services, and the ability to put food on the table – and that’s the reason why we are here today,” concluded Scott.
Putting on his Baptist preacher’s hat, Scott called economic development “a true ministry.” “We’ve set out to be the Chief Growth Officer here in this administration and this proof is in the pudding. And it has not happened with the city of Little Rock team members, and it does not happen without the chamber, Entergy Arkansas, and the entire business community and community-at-large working to grow jobs for one another,” he said.
Although the city intends to double that number in the years ahead, Scott said he wanted to pause to take time to celebrate the recent growth. Later, Chesshir provided key details on the city’s growth over the past 22 months, noting nearly two dozen announcements by companies locating or expanding their operations in Little Rock, Pulaski County or the surrounding Central Arkansas metropolitan area.
The longtime chamber CEO then credited Mayor Scott and Gov. Asa Hutchinson as the “dual quarterback system” leading the city and state, respectively, in the recruitment of better and more jobs.
“They are the ones calling the shots on what we are doing, when we are doing it, and obviously that starts with Mayor Scott and also our Gov. Asa Hutchinson who we like to pay homage to because of his work and work of the (state) Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Preston and the state Division of Economic Development,” said Chesshir. “This truly is a team sport.”
In his earlier interview with BlackConsumerNews.com, Scott also talked about his close working relationship with Hutchinson to make sure the COVID-19 distribution plan for Arkansas’ capital city runs smoothly during the pandemic. Scott said under the Biden administration, there has been a dramatic change in the efficiency of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, a sentiment shared by Gov. Hutchinson recently.
“There’s a stark change as it relates to the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Hutchinson would share that (view) as he has publicly already,” said Scott. “Since the Biden administration has taken the helm, they have made a commitment to the dosage amount being sent to the states. And once they get to the states, they go through our pharmacies and local hospitals to make sure we get it to the ground level.”
Under the Biden plan, Scott said that Arkansas would receive about 1.5 million does per week to administer the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to just over 3 million Arkansans that live across 75 mostly rural counties. Despite being leaders in different political parties, Scott applauded the Republican governor’s leadership amid the pandemic.
“Gov. Hutchinson and I have a strong relationship. We had a relationship before he was governor and that has clearly deepened since he’s become governor and I’ve become mayor,” said Scott. “We have been in the trenches together of a global pandemic, of a 500-year flood, social and civil unrest, and the greatest recession since the Great Recession.”
(This story was edited by BCN Managing Editor Victoria Mays.)
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