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Communities hope they're dealt an ace.

Pine Bluff Lands First Arkansas Community of Excellence Designation

THE ARKANSAS COMMUnity of Excellence program helps communities throughout the state prepare for future economic growth.

The program, established in July 1992, walks communities through several organizational betterment exercises. Upon completion, each community is recognized as one of the top areas for potential industrial development in the state.

Basically, it puts these cities on a "preferred" list.

"Some of the requirements are things you know you should do, but you keep putting off," says Wally Gieringer, president and chief executive officer of the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation. Pine Bluff, located in Jefferson Country, was the first city to obtain ACE status. The designation was presented by Governor Jim Guy Tucker on March 1.

Thirty-eight other communities are participating and working toward their certificate.

Gieringer says Pine Bluff formalized its program for calling on prospects and existing industry and completed some environmental and archaeological surveys on industrial sites.

"We'd done many things throughout the years to see that Pine Bluff was ready for industry," Gieringer says. "But this program made us even more prepared. The whole idea is being prepared so that when an industrial prospect arrives the package is ready."

Pine Bluff is home to about 70 industries, and about 20 percent of its workforce of 7,000 people is employed in manufacturing. In the past 10 years, Pine Bluff's industry has grown approximately 18 percent, while nationally the number has declined.

Program Criteria

Elements of the ACE program criteria include organization, established industry, marketing strategy, community evaluation, community information and industrial property. A partial description of these categories follows:

* Organization. There must be a local economic development organization with sole authority for economic development activities, including the authority to buy, sell and negotiate land prices. There must be a committee to meet and negotiate with industrial prospects and a committee to design and implement an established industry program.

* Established industry. The community must submit an established industry program that stipulates a visitation program and other activities such as appreciation events.

* Marketing strategy. There should be a formal marketing campaign, including economic development brochures and site maps. Local incentives should be included.

* Community evaluation. A three- to five-year strategic plan and a one-year action plan covering not only economic development but other quality of life issues.

* Community information. Compiled and updated annually is information covering all aspects of the community such as education, housing and recreation.

* Industrial property. There are specific criteria for the amount and kind of land that should be available to industrial prospects. All background work should be completed and all services should be available.

Gieringer says it took Pine Bluff roughly six months to comply with all the requirements even though many of the programs were in place.

"Yes, there are many |requirements~," Gieringer says, "but they are all important. It was time-consuming to meet them all, but we felt it was time well spent."
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Title Annotation:Special Report: Industry Report; communities strive to pass the Arkansas Community of Excellence program
Author:Ford, Kelly
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 4, 1993
Words:488
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