by I.C. Murrell | February 28, 2021, Pine Bluff Commercial
For Little Rock construction executive Jill Floyd, learning about the different industry sectors that network in Arkansas is crucial to gaining perspective on how the state operates.
Leadership Arkansas gives the director of community outreach for CDI Contractors the opportunity to glean that knowledge.
Floyd said she was excited “to go out and explore the different areas around the state, understand what their issues are, the challenges are, and what things they’re doing well, quite frankly, and building a network of folks I can lean on and also help as we all progress in our careers in service to the state.”
Floyd is one of 31 members in Leadership Arkansas’ 15th class who toured Pine Bluff from Wednesday through Friday and took a course on highway management in a city that provides a corridor to almost every spot in the state. Ryan Watley, CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff, who graduated from last year’s class, said this is the first time Leadership Arkansas has come to the city.
“It’s very important to understand the region that Arkansas is, how each corner of the state contributes to the overall economy, and how the issues that are in southeast Arkansas are different from those that may be in northwest Arkansas, and so they begin to develop a sentiment for that,” Watley said. “In their track, whether they’re public leaders or financial leaders or whatever, they understand how the state network is.”
The Arkansas Department of Transportation is a key component of the curriculum. ADOT Deputy Director Randy Ort and state transportation commissioners, including Chairman Robert Moore of Arkansas City, educated the business leaders on their place in government and challenged the class to prioritize needs for the system through a group exercise.
“We have all these needs identified, which is a big number, but have this much available,” Ort said. “That’s the big challenge for the commission: How do you prioritize the projects? You’ve got $1,000 worth of needs but only $500; how are you going to prioritize?
“What we’ve done is give them $10 million worth of projects and given them a $750 million budget to spend, so they’re putting together a plan on how they’re going to spend that money. Are they going to spend it on bridges? Are they going to spend more on high-priority corridors? Are they going to take care of system preservation? It’s a very interesting exercise.”
Leadership Arkansas, founded by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, takes business leaders from across the state and helps them take a comprehensive view of the economic and political challenges Arkansas faces. Nearly 800 people have graduated from the program.
The 2020-21 group first met in September in Fairfield Bay and has since met in Jonesboro to study agriculture and outdoor life, the Little Rock area in December to learn about government and military life, and El Dorado and southwest Arkansas in January to examine natural resources, defense and industrial development.
They’ll meet again next month in Hot Springs to learn about tourism, history and revitalization and head to Northwest Arkansas in April to examine regional development before graduation May 21 in Little Rock.
Watley said the visit gives Pine Bluff a chance to roll out the red carpet to a diverse group of Arkansas business leaders.
“They can go back and empower them to be able to converse in a positive manner about the things going on in Pine Bluff,” Watley said. “So far they’ve been impressed, by and large, by the way Go Forward Pine Bluff is working in the community, our private-public partnerships and the progress we’ve made in a short amount of time. They also understand our challenges. So we’re talking about, with those leaders, the things we hope to address.”
Floyd said business leaders in Central Arkansas tend to be more “inwardly focused” on their region because it’s the most populated area. She said she hopes to take the information from Leadership Arkansas to help her continue leading in her field.
“As a woman in construction, it’s continuing to provide opportunities for other women and other minorities to come into the space, to make sure the space itself is more diverse and welcoming, and that we’re also, quite frankly, moving into future technologies that will help us move forward,” Floyd said. “Also, introducing the space to people who don’t necessarily see it as a career path.”
Little Rock, Ark. (February 22, 2021) — Vaccinate the Natural State, a new initiative led by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Arkansas Minority Health Commission, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Council, UAMS and Walmart, was announced today. The statewide initiative will educate Arkansans about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage individuals to get the vaccine as soon as possible – by doing so they will be taking a critical step toward helping end the pandemic.
“The health of our communities relies on every eligible Arkansan getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them,” said Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “Vaccinations offer our best path for eliminating the virus, ending the suffering, and starting the process of returning our lives back to some sense of normal. The organizations that have come together to fuel this movement represent best-of-class knowledge coupled with connected networks that can ensure the word gets out that Vaccinate the Natural State can be life-changing for all of us.”
“Vaccinate the Natural State will address the misinformation that has left many hesitant, or unsure how or when they can be vaccinated,” said Jennifer Dillaha, M.D., state epidemiologist for Arkansas, Arkansas Department of Health. “We want Arkansans to understand that the vaccine is the safest, most effective way to protect themselves and their communities. We are appreciative that Arkansas Blue Cross stepped forward to help the state during the earliest rounds of the vaccinations and now has convened these organizations to create a movement that will have a lasting effect on our state.”
Vaccinate the Natural State is a combined effort from a diverse set of organizations across every corner of the state – working to encourage all Arkansans to get the COVID-19 vaccine and help end the pandemic.
The campaign, which launches in mid-March, will have two primary focuses: business-to-business engagement and hyper-local community engagement.
“AFMC is proud to once again partner with Arkansas Blue Cross and the Arkansas State Chamber,” added Ray Hanley, president and CEO, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC). “AFMC supports the Arkansas Department of Health and their vaccination efforts across the state. AFMC is the state’s designated quality improvement organization and we will work to promote and educate Arkansans on the importance of this vaccine.”
To support Arkansas’ business community, Arkansas Blue Cross is partnering with the Arkansas State Chamber and AFMC to provide objective information and educational resources, video modules, communication toolkits, and outreach to help guide businesses through the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. Through this effort, business owners and leaders will be equipped to confidently lead their organizations as more COVID-19 vaccines are made available and be armed with the knowledge to guide their employees through the vaccination process and getting employees back to work.
“As we’ve done with many critical issues, our role will be to mobilize and educate local chambers of commerce across the state and help them reach out to the businesses and industries in their hometowns,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce of Commerce. “All of the chambers across Arkansas will be asking businesses to join the movement through the ‘Power Over Pandemic Pledge.’”
Through the Power Over Pandemic Pledge, business leaders commit to their organizations joining the Vaccinate the Natural State movement. The pledge reads:
As an Arkansas employer and business leader, I commit to helping fight COVID-19 and will do my part to end the pandemic. I pledge to:
- Lead by example by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I am able,
- Strongly encourage all medically eligible employees and others in my organization to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,
- Provide the resources my associates need to make an informed decision in favor of being vaccinated, and
- Make receiving a vaccine as easy as possible for those in my organization.
We are all in this together and we must all work together to help end the pandemic.
Through Arkansas Blue Cross’ work with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, the NWA Council, UAMS and Walmart, a public service and grassroots campaign will be launched to educate Arkansans on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage them to receive the vaccine when it is available to them. Within this effort, a particular emphasis will be placed on rural, underserved communities and those with health disparities. In addition to education, this outreach will work toward getting vaccines to all communities.
“Arkansas Blue Cross is especially committed to addressing the health disparities of our state as they relate to the vaccine, at this critical time,” said Creshelle Nash, M.D., M.P.H., Arkansas Blue Cross medical director for Public Programs and Utilization Management. “COVID-19 has uncovered and illuminated deep, long-term health and healthcare disparities, some more obvious than others, in our nation and here at home. We all have a responsibility to bridge the great disparity divides – racial, digital and healthcare access. Working together through Vaccinate the Natural State will take us a long way in that journey to end the COVID pandemic for our underserved communities now and begin to bring health equity to our state long-term.”
The state’s Minority Health Commission will be instrumental in the success of the Vaccinate the Natural State movement. Its role is to assure all minority Arkansans receive equitable access to preventive healthcare, including the COVID-19 vaccine.
“In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, our commission will be focused on educating the minority populations in Arkansas and removing barriers they may have to receive the vaccines,” said ShaRhonda Love, director, Arkansas Minority Health Commission. “We want every Arkansan to have confidence that the vaccine is a personal first step in protecting themselves, their families and friends from this pandemic.”
The Northwest Arkansas Council is committed to preparing organizations to return to work through the vaccination of its workforces and – through the Council’s Healthcare Transformation Division – continue to ensure the Latinx and Pacific Islander communities receive this protective immunization.
“We are excited to have a role in this powerful collaboration of organizations working to better our state,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor, UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and Northwest Arkansas Council representative. “We are prepared to do our part to end the pandemic and that means ensuring Arkansans understand the benefits of vaccination in a language they understand and have access to this preventive measure. Arkansas is a ‘community,’ and it will take everyone working together to be successful.”
Walmart will be supporting both the business and community engagement efforts of Vaccinate the Natural State as well.
“We’re committed to helping eligible Arkansans by administering vaccines in rural and underserved communities where it is most needed,” said Gerard Dehrmann, senior vice president of Public Affairs & State and Local Government Relations, Walmart. “It will take all of us working together to reach our neighbors in the furthermost areas of our state, and we are proud to help make it happen.”
To learn more about the Vaccinate the Natural State movement, visit VaccinateTheNaturalState.com.
To see the press conference announcing the initiative, click https://cwppro.com/live/arbcbs/
Due to COVID-19, the State Chamber/AIA will be holding weekly Business Lobbyists Group Zoom meetings during the 93rd General Assembly instead of weekly luncheons as has been the case in the past.
We would like to thank and recognize the following sponsors for supporting the Business Lobbyists Group Zoom meetings:
Presenting – Walmart, Snyder Environmental, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, Mullenix & Associates LLC, Cox Communications, Black Hills Energy, Stephens Investment Holdings LLC, McDaniel Wolff & Benca, PLLC, Tyson Foods, AT&T Arkansas and Union Pacific Railroad.
Premier – Associated Builders & Contractors of Arkansas, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Entergy Arkansas and UAMS.
Supporting – Arkansas Forestry Association, Arkansas Bankers Association, Arkansas State Dental Association, Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Enable Midstream Partners, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas, Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association, Impact Management Group, Wright Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Riceland Foods, Inc., Arkansas Timber Producers Association, inVeritas, Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, DBH Management Consultants, Arkansas Learns, Wholesale Beer Distributors of Arkansas, Arkansas Municipal League, Arkansas Children’s, Arkansas Asphalt Pavement Association and Hargraves Consulting.
If your company or organization would like to help sponsor these meetings, contact Bill Watson at email@example.com or 501-802-1740.
Ready for Life, an initiative for those who want to improve their skills or change careers as well as gather career and employment data from business and industry, will strengthen the state’s workforce and offer business leaders better information about the state’s talent pool, Governor Asa Hutchinson said at a recent press conference.
“This initiative combines a gold mine of information about educational and employment opportunities that will make it easier for Arkansans to enhance their education or to change careers even,” Governor Hutchinson said. “Ready for Life will make it easier for employees and employers to find each other, and it will offer business leaders a quick snapshot of the state of the employee pool in Arkansas as they recruit talent.”
Governor Hutchinson has allocated $14.7 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds in support of Ready for Life, which is a partnership with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Division of Workforce Services, K-12, and Institutions of Higher Education.
The website is www.ReadyForLife.arkansas.gov.