In 2003, AngelouEconomics was retained by the Central Arkansas Economic Development Alliance (CAEDA) to conduct a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for an 11-county Region surrounding Metro Little Rock. The Plan analyzed the Region’s economy, identified target industries, and provided a side-by-side comparison of the Region’s assets against the needs of those target industries. The final CEDS was delivered in October 2004 and contained a roadmap for CAEDA and other leaders in the Region to advance economic development and sustain healthy, long-term job growth.
Since completing the study, several cities within the Region have begun to draft their own economic development plans that align local improvements with the Regional vision. In December 2004, Expansion Management magazine ranked metro Little Rock on its “America’s 50 Hottest Cities” list.
AE’s action plan included a far-reaching recommendation to create a College of Engineering at UALR. As a result, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) received a $6 million endowment to add a bachelor’s degree program in mechanical and electrical engineering at UALR’s Donaghey College of Information Science and Systems Engineering. The donation was spurred by the results of the CEDS plan and AE’s recommendation that expanding UALR’s five-year-old, ABET- accredited systems engineering curriculum was key to developing the central Arkansas region.
In August 2005, the MLRA received its first new industry success since beginning its active, integrated marketing efforts when FTD.com announced that it would open an order entry and customer service center in the region, creating 250 jobs initially and up to 600 jobs in the future. Since then, Metro Little Rock has seen the growth of such industries as advanced manufacturing and distribution, customer service, aviation, food processing, and energy. Leaders in investment include wind turbine blade manufacturer LM Glasfiber, whose location created 1,100 new jobs and brought $150 million in capital investment; along with steel pipe manufacturer Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd. (300 new jobs and $100 million in capital investment); AT&T, Inc; ACCENT Marketing Services, LLC; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and Fortune 500 company SAIC.
Since 2005, Metro Little Rock has witnessed unprecedented growth, with the creation of 6,052 jobs; over $218.5 million in new payroll; and more than $2.6 billion in capital investment.