Editor’s Note: “The Economic Development Side” originally appears in the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s weekly member e-newsletter. It is written by Rhonda Dishner, the Economic Development Alliance’s executive assistant.


Economic development professionals from around the world were in Little Rock recently for a meeting sponsored by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).


IEDC’s Economic Future Forum, held Sunday through Tuesday, June 4-6, at the Statehouse Convention Center, was one of the first (if not the first) time an IEDC meeting has been held in Arkansas. Activities for attendees included a reception at the Clinton Presidential Center and tours of several Little Rock sites and technology-related operations. A small group also visited the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Jefferson County on June 6.


Among the chief state sponsors were the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Metro Little Rock Alliance and Entergy Arkansas.


Three staff members of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County attended all or part of the forum: Lou Ann Nisbett, CEcD, president and chief executive officer; Caleb McMahon, director of economic development; and Nancy McNew, director of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce. They reported conversations with a number of the speakers and influential guests.


Since the numerous break-out sessions were held concurrently rather than consecutively, the three had the opportunity to coordinate and attend nearly all of the workshops on a variety of economic development topics, Nisbett says. That included information on what’s coming for urban and rural communities, cybersecurity, and tourism, as well as an update on workforce development issues.


A long-time IEDC member, Nisbett arrived one day early and spent Saturday grading tests for certified economic developer candidates and then serving as a judge for the orals exams. She reports that a better-then-usual number of candidates passed this rigorous process for CEcD certification. This grading service earned her points toward her own CEcD recertification.


As an invited member of IEDC’s Economic Development Research Partners Program (EDRP), she also attended a working meeting on the group’s current research project, “Placemaking: An Economic Development Strategy,” and was named to the research teams for upcoming projects on business retention and expansion (BR&E) and the changing energy landscape.


“This was a good meeting and an especially important one because we were able to showcase Arkansas,” Nisbett says. “And its location in Little Rock this time was really kind to our travel budget,” she added with a laugh.


IEDC is the largest membership organization of its kind in the world, with more than 5,000 members.