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Jonesboro Unlimited – Jonesboro, AR Photo

Jonesboro Unlimited – Jonesboro, AR

Jonesboro is located in Northeast, Arkansas – a little over an hour from Memphis – in Craighead County (110,000 population).  It has enjoyed decades of relative economic success, thanks to higher education (Arkansas State University); its position as a regional healthcare hub; and a strong cluster of food manufacturers such as Nestle, Frito Lay, Post, Butterball, and Riceland Foods.  But local leaders had become somewhat complacent regarding intentional and visionary economic development and the current generation of leadership grew concerned over some disturbing trends and data regarding wages and poverty levels.  A comprehensive strategic planning process (led by Avalanche Consulting) in 2015 yielded a practical, yet ambitious plan with three core objectives: 1) Invest in our Product, 2) Tell our Story, and 3) Organize for Action.  Jonesboro Unlimited and The Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, led by Mark Young and a group of forward-thinking business leaders, recognized that executing the new plan would require re-organizing the community’s economic development approach and substantial investment from private sector stakeholders. 

How NCDS Helped

NCDS’ 2016 feasibility analysis & goal assessment revealed strong support for the new plan / approach and provided the core leadership with confidence to launch a community-wide fundraising campaign.  Key recommendations included repackaging the strategic plan for better defined outcomes and impacts, and early buy-in and investments from high profile leaders / companies.  NCDS’ Economic Strategy Center produced a compelling economic impact analysis that projected over $1.2 billion in new business output and an ROI of $27 for every $1 of private money invested in the new program.  Several local leaders stepped up to endorse and lead the campaign, with the highly respected hospital CEO agreeing to chair the effort and commit to the lead pledge.  By the middle of 2017, the Momentum Jonesboro campaign had secured over 85 private sector commitments for Jonesboro Unlimited exceeding $3.7 million over five years – representing an almost 500% increase over previous levels of private sector funding.  Per investor input, we also helped facilitate a new governance and oversight structure for Jonesboro Unlimited that better distinguished it from a “committee of the chamber.”

Outcomes / Success

  • 3,000 high paying jobs created in target industries in program’s first three years – surpassing the five-year goal of 2,500
  • $475 million in new capital investment (in three years)
  • Ranked in top 5% of US small metros for job growth (#1 in AR)
  • Development of Quality of Life and Connectivity Master Plan, including $1 million in new bike trails
  • New investments (including dedicated staff position at JU) for community marketing
  • Ranked by Area Development Magazine in top 10 among small metros in the South for:
    • Economic strength
    • 5-year growth
    • Prime workforce
    • Year to year growth