The town of Harrison, Ark. discovers obstacles to economic development grants
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) – In July, Harrison City Council intended to approve its first economic development grant for a city-line business. Instead, the council returned to awarding its first grant after discovering additional state regulations affecting city funds and private companies.
The most significant change with the additional regulations; For a business to be eligible for a grant, it must fall into the following eight broad categories:
The Arkansas Constitution defines “economic development projects” and “economic development services” very precisely.
“Economic development projects” means land, buildings, fixtures, equipment, facilities, “infrastructure” and improvements necessary or conducive to the development, maintenance or expansion of: (a) manufacturing, production and industrial facilities; (b) research, technology and development facilities; (c) recycling facilities; (d) distribution centers; (e) call centers; (N) storage facilities; (g) vocational training institutions; (h) regional or national corporate headquarters facilities; and (;) sports complexes designed to host local, state, regional and national competitions, including but not limited to baseball, softball and other sports tournaments.
“If you look at the eight different categories that state law provides, the most important is manufacturing. And what we hope to do with it now is encourage our local factories to scale up,” Mayor Jerry Jackson said Monday. “That’s probably our most important economy is industry. We are a manufacturing city.”
Jamie Akers, the owner of several Harrison restaurants, was seeking approval for new ventures, including expanding a restaurant into a new facility along US 65 on Harrison’s north side.
“The city didn’t have its stuff together and wasn’t organized,” Akers said. “The bottom line is that the city is still measured against state standards in terms of economic development. We fell under some requirements in terms of employment but not production as new ventures we are currently working on may later allow us to become eligible.”
Major Jackson told KY3 he feels terrible about the obstacles in the early application phase.
“I think he felt bad about it. I know I felt bad because it was just unfortunate for him,” Jackson said. “If he had known these additional regulations in advance, he probably would never have applied and we are working to ensure companies are aware of all of these regulations.”
No business grants had been approved as of Monday, but several are awaiting approval.
“If we’re approved, the first thing is definitely to buy the gear to upgrade the wholesale products because we have the Walmart account,” said The Dude by Hrafn’s Floy Goodwin. “Also to grow nationwide and bring more economic employment.”
The Dude is a fashion retail front currently in a transition phase into wholesale merchandise, primarily men’s skincare. According to Goodwin, the transition will take place over the next two to three months and will result in more employment.
“Harrison has always had tremendous growth potential, so it’s really going to enable small businesses to really make a difference in their communities,” she said.
This is the first time the City of Harrison has approved an economic development fund. For application details, contact the Mayor’s Office at (870) 741-2777 or email: [email protected]
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