Cabot could be on its way to breaking the mold as a Little Rock “bedroom community” by wielding a new tool in the form of Act 685, enhancing local economic development efforts. But how that tool will be used is the larger question, city officials and others heard Friday, at a meeting led by Community Development Committee chairman Kevin Davis.
City council members Norma Naquin, Damon Bivens, Ed Long, Anne Gilliam, Doug Warner, along with Mayor Bill Cypert, city attorney Jimmy Taylor, Chamber of Commerce board president David Haseslip, and Chamber executive director Amy Williams attended the meeting.
Central to Friday’s meeting is the possible partnership of the city with the Cabot Chamber of Commerce to conduct economic development, which until Act 685 had been not possible. The Act sets out the provisions under which city funds can be designated to a non-government entity, to be used for an economic development project.
The city/chamber partnership seems the best of three options, including hiring a city economic development director or contracting with a service provider, Davis said. He presented a tentative contract with the Chamber to provide that service, “I’d like this on the city council agenda [meeting] for October,” he said.
Having the Chamber conduct economic development takes the discussions out of the political process, and “Being able to keep things under wraps, the way they should be sometimes doesn’t work in the political part of [economic development],” Davis said.
Davis told of an initial meeting, held Thursday, with Boyette Strategic Advisors of Little Rock on establishing an economic development partnership. Demographics already collected about Cabot and Lonoke County, presented at the meeting, is about retail missing and being lost in Cabot and Lonoke County, and it “Left me in shock and awe,” Davis exclaimed. “It is the best I have seen.”
“They [Boyette] know exactly how many people are leaving the city in the morning to go work somewhere,” he said. The next step is to determine what the individuals are doing, and use that to develop the workforce in Cabot, he added.
Williams said that information will collected in a series of individual interviews, with results possibly by the beginning of December.
School district and workforce development officials were at the meeting, and one area is already coming clear – the need for vocational skills, Davis said. “[Boyette] has made it blatantly simple – welding and truck drivers are something that are still needed,” mentioning that he understood a county business had moved for lack of welders.
Information already developed by Boyette is enough, “To open your eyes up,” Davis said.