The Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation received certification Friday, March 10 for having successfully completed the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Prospect Readiness Education Program (PREP).

HCEDC President Steve Harris, Mayor Steven Montgomery, County Judge Haskell Morse, Dr. Lester Sitzes III, City Manager Catherine Cook, Gary Chambless, Mark Ross, Lynn Montgomery and Steve Saum of Hope Water & Light all participated in the program.

Cody Slater of the AEDC made the presentation and said the HCEDC was “ahead of the curve” on the program and very successfully achieved the certification.

According to the AEDC’s website, PREP offers hands-on training in all aspects of the economic development prospect visit and provides the training and resources needed to prepare for, execute and follow up on prospect company visits to the community.

HCEDC President Steve Harris said the PREP certification was a six month training process that provided big benefits to the county in addition to the certification and recognition. Smith said the training provided the members tools to better work as a team as well as practical tips and a better understanding of what to do and what to avoid when dealing with prospective companies that are looking at Hempstead County as a possible location for their new facilities.

Smith said there’s a limited time to put the county’s best foot forward and the training will help ensure the HCEDC has all the information companies will want and need when they come calling. Companies have varying needs that are most important to them when selecting a site, Smith said, and having the details on workforce, worker training, infrastructure access, operating costs, etc. helps to keep the process efficient and reflects well on the county.

Smith said the HCEDC works closely with the AEDC in trying to bring new companies to the county. He said they host multiple company representatives each year and engage in marketing events twice annually where they visit site consultants along with state officials to try to attract new industries.

According to Smith, the HCEDC is currently working with a site consultant representing a company looking at Hempstead County as a possible location. The company is annonymously represented by the consultant, which Smith said is a common practice.

In addition to courting new businesses to the county, Smith said a large part of what the HCEDC does is focusing on the needs of existing industries and helping them find ways to meet those needs.

As far as the economic state of Hempstead County, Smith said unemployment has been on the decline (3.8%) and is well below the national average of 4.7%. Smith also commented that most of the industries in Hempstead County are currently doing well and some are even talking of expansion.

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