Insights > Economic Development Group Rooted in History With an Eye on the Future
Economic Development Group Rooted in History With an Eye on the Future
Danny Games, director of business and economic development for Entergy Arkansas, traces the roots of what he does for a living to 1913, the year Harvey Couch created the company that would eventually become Entergy. Couch built his business on the philosophy and on the slogan, "Helping Build Arkansas."
Games has a team of seven professionals responsible for managing large industrial accounts, recruiting new business, helping existing customers expand, and working with communities in the Entergy Arkansas service territory to help them succeed at developing their own economies.
"Think of it like a manufacturing scenario. First you develop the product," Games said. "The product is the community and its proximity to transportation, cost of utilities, available workforce, available buildings or sites, and many more less-tangible qualities, including a good business climate and progressive leadership. Our work is focused on making the communities we serve more prepared and more successful."
"When it comes down to it, a business looking to locate or expand doesn't necessarily choose a state. It chooses a community," Games said. Staff member Tandee White is dedicated exclusively to community development. With the support of Entergy Arkansas’ customer service managers, she works as an advisor, counselor, advocate and facilitator for community leaders looking to prepare their areas for success when competing for business.
One key initiative Games' team promotes heavily involves helping communities develop certified sites that have been fully vetted when the right prospect comes knocking. The Select Site initiative represents a significant commitment by a community to work through an arduous 50-item checklist on a property – things like environmental and geotechnical studies and pertinent information related to utilities and site features – before a prospect has even been identified. It's a step of faith that has paid off handsomely several times over. Mississippi County's Big River Steel and the 3.2 million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center being built at the Little Rock Port are located on former Select Sites.
Games recalled a recent conversation with the director of economic development for West Memphis, which recently certified a 1,800-acre Select Site, the largest in the state. Because of the requirements of the certification process, the City of West Memphis had addressed wetland issues on the property. Later, the director told Games he was giving a virtual tour of the site to a promising prospect, “and you wouldn't believe how irrigation ditches and wetland questions came into play…and, we knocked it out of the park!"
See a set of videos HERE giving an overview of each of the eight Select Sites currently available.
Another key initiative is preparing Arkansas' workforce to fill new jobs. With occupations becoming more and more automated, the jobs that are available are fewer and require higher technical skills than they once did. In December, Entergy Arkansas announced a grant of $482,000 that will be used to develop 20 new career-and technical-education (CTE) courses that will be available to high school students and adults in the fall of 2021.
"Helping create relevant CTE courses in the midst of a pandemic should make a difference for many students, young and old," Games said. "Economists suggest that more than 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day in the U.S., so providing our younger workers with the right skills and education is very important right now."
Looking ahead, Games is optimistic. While COVID-19 has hurt every state's economy, Arkansas has weathered the pandemic comparatively well, he said, carefully walking the line between restricting businesses for safety and allowing businesses to continue to serve customers and provide employment and livelihoods for our citizens.
"In early 2020, our economy was robust, our unemployment rate was low, our labor force numbers and participation rate were high," Games said. "The only thing that has slowed us down is the pandemic. We can come out of this with a lot of momentum. I hope that by the end of this year, we're really experiencing a recovery and at an accelerated rate."
As for Mr. Couch’s assessment, Games says, “I hope we would make him proud of what he started.”