Arkansas Economic Development Commission
The Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC) was created in 1955 by Act 404 of the Arkansas General Assembly to make the state more economically competitive in the post–World War II era. The AIDC was renamed the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). Act 910 of 2019 placed the Arkansas Economic Development Commission under the umbrella entity of the Department of Commerce.
Industry in the United States became more sophisticated in the postwar period, and Arkansas was largely an agricultural state with farming and related manufacturing (mostly raw foodstuff), forestry, and paper products. The Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, the legislature, and the public realized that the state had not made strides in industrial development, so the governor proposed, prior to the 1955 legislative session, the establishment of the AIDC and the University of Arkansas Industrial Research and Extension Center. The AIDC was established with seven board members, which was expanded to sixteen members appointed by the governor for four-year terms. Winthrop Rockefeller was appointed chairman, and a staff was employed. His immediate success in this position was a factor in Rockefeller’s later election as governor.
An intensive industry recruitment program began in 1955, resulting in diversification into manufacturing plants producing food products, clothing and textiles, and wood and paper products. New or greatly expanded production facilities in Arkansas that resulted from AIDC recruitment activities include those for electronics, electric power, transportation (automotive, aircraft, and marine), plastics, and fabricated metals. The food-processing industry continued to grow by moving beyond the processing of raw food products to producing end-product consumer goods—that is, foods which are purchased by the ultimate consumer.
The work of the industrial development agency has expanded into many fields. In 1997, it was renamed the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to reflect the new emphasis beyond manufacturing industries to service and high technology industries. The name was changed when Barbara Pardue was chairman during the administration of Governor Mike Huckabee.
Today, there is an emphasis on high tech industry, such as biotechnology and information technology, and service industries including health care, distribution logistics, and finance and information processing. The AEDC assists businesses by making available basic economic data, market studies, and financial assistance.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s major goals are to stimulate job creation, retention, and capital investment and to support and increase the development capacity of communities. To achieve these goals, the department is organized into several sections: business development, community development, international business development, and research and policy.
For additional information:
Arkansas Economic Development Commission. https://www.arkansasedc.com/ (accessed July 11, 2023).
Barton A. Westerlund and Roger K. Chisholm
Little Rock, Arkansas
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