Economic development course attracts record enrollment

The annual Mid-South Basic Economic Development Course is attracting record enrollment this year and includes participants from as far away as Washington, D.C.

Hosted by the Institute for Economic Advancement at UALR, the annual course is an intensive introduction to the fundamentals of economic development.

It is geared toward elected officials, government agency staff, utility and transportation personnel, and practicing economic developers, to name a few.

The four-day accredited course begins Monday, March 31, and runs through Thursday, April 3. It is held each year at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development at UALR.

Dr. Ronald Swager presents at the 2013 Basic Economic Development Course
Dr. Ronald Swager presents at the 2013 Basic Economic Development Course

Dr. Ronald Swager of UALR’s Center for Economic Development Education said that, with 45 participants, enrollment is at room capacity and a waiting list has been formed. The previous high, 35 participants, was in 2008.

“The record enrollment isn’t easy to account for,” acknowledged Swager. “The course has a highly favorable reputation, and the word is getting out.”

Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, said that the course was extremely beneficial.

“My takeaways were new skills, new resources, and new relationships that directly helped me do my job,” he said.

The course shows participants ways to enhance their respective towns or regions. National and regional trends, professional ethics, and various economic development practices are among the subjects addressed as part of the comprehensive curriculum.

Most of this year’s participants are from Arkansas; however, there are also some registered from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

In addition to the content and networking benefits, the course includes, for the first time, a bus tour of economic and business highlights in Little Rock.

The tour will include downtown development such as the Clinton Presidential Center and Heifer International; manufacturing and transportation at the Little Rock Port Authority, including a tour of Welspun Corp., one of the biggest large-diameter pipe companies in the world; retail development at Shackleford Crossing; and new retail development planned at the Gateway Town Center and BassPro Shop.

“That makes for a great content-driven diversion from the usual classroom setting,” said Swager, adding that it provided out-of-town guests specific ideas on potential public-private partnerships and economic development.

IEA is a part of the UALR College of Business and is comprised of a unique collection of professional expertise divided into three basic functions: data, research, and training.

IEA provides specialized services that support the economic advancement of Arkansas and is available for businesses, governmental units, labor organizations, communities, and private individuals throughout the state. In particular, it is dedicated to supporting the economic development community by serving as a source of sound and credible research and training.

Covering a broad range of issues, IEA assists UALR in providing effective state economic development strategies and increased vitality in business and industry.

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