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Economic development post to be permanent; foundation to assist all HC businesses, industries

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By Louie Graves

and John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

There is some confusion about the job of Economic Development Coordinator for the newly formed “Developing Howard County Foundation,” Nashville Mayor Larry Dunaway says.

Four applications had been received as of Friday morning, and none of them are local.

The job is permanent and full-time, with a salary and benefits. Mayor Dunaway emphasized that the job would continue even after a replacement for Husqvarna is found. The foundation coordinator would continue to work on behalf of Tyson, Certainteed, Mission Plastics, Weyerhaeuser, area businesses and all other jobs providers.

Another thing, he said, the foundation coordinator will be working for all of Howard County “From Umpire to Saratoga.”

The foundation coordinator will work out of an office on the UA-Cossatot campus.

Mayor Dunaway said that Howard County, the City of Nashville and UA-Cossatot would be contributing $15,000 each per year to help fund the position. Local businesses and individuals may also make tax-deductible contributions to the effort, and all contributors will have a seat at the table for making foundation decisions.

Cossatot Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole reiterated that program will be about “economic development for all of Howard County. It’s not just about Husqvarna. Husqvarna was the catalyst” when the company announced that the Nashville plant will close by the end of 2024 with a loss of more than 700 jobs.

Dr. Cole said that Cossatot is “following models from Little River and Sevier counties”in working on economic development in Howard County.

“We’ll work with existing businesses, provide training. We’re expanding what we can do for you. Nowhere does it say ‘Husqvarna,’” Dr. Cole said. “Husqvarna is at the top of the list now, but we’ll reach out to all businesses.”

Recruiting new industry “is part of it, but we want people to know what else we will offer. Support for existing businesses is part of it,” Dr. Cole said.

Currently, UA-Cossatot is partnering with Howard, Sevier and Little River counties, along with the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District, for a a multi-million dollar grant application “to develop greater railroad structure in the area. We are looking at economic development is more regional and will work together The director here can meet with the other two and share ideas. This will be multi-faceted. We want to take care of existing businesses,” not just deal with Husqvarna’s departure, Dr. Cole said.

The new director will be on the UA-C payroll and will have an office on the Nashville campus. 

Applications are being taken for the job, which Dr. Cole, like Mayor Dunaway, described as “permanent, multi-year.”

Interested individuals may apply online through the UA-Cossatot website through Friday, Sept. 23. “We expect to hire about Oct. 1,” Dr. Cole said.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission “is very aware of what we’re doing and will help with training,” Dr. Cole said.

As a community college, Cossatot will “use our resources to help the community. That helps everybody,” according to Dr. Cole.

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