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Economic development group to name director soon

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By Louie Graves

and John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Interviews were expected to begin this week for the post of economic development coordinator for the newly formed Developing Howard County Foundation.

UA-Cossatot Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole said 12 applications have been received for the position.

The foundation “has narrowed our list of applicants, and we will schedule interviews,” Cole said.

If all goes as planned, “We should have an offer and acceptance late next week,” Dr. Cole said.

Shortly after the position was announced, four applications were received. That number tripled as prospects learned that the job will be permanent.

There was initial confusion about the job, Nashville Mayor Larry Dunaway said.

The position will be 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, Certaineed, Mission Plastics, Weyerhaeuser, area businesses and all other jobs providers.

Husqvarna announced earlier this year that the Nashville operation will be shut down by the end of 2024.

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.

Dr. 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 the Nashville closing 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. 

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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