Recovery & Resiliency Blueprint
HARSH REALITIES OF COVID-19 AND OUR VISION FOR RECOVERY AND RESILIENCE
As the pandemic hit our nation, and our region, and before Congress allocated resources to assist in regional development across the country, we began our journey to anticipate how this experience could possibly be with us for a year or longer, and how this could impact the very underpinnings of our economy and society. We were not at all sure where this pandemic would lead. But, this was not the first time the Arkansas Delta has experienced disaster. And we speculated that, as with previous shocks to the regional economy, moments like this create paradigms shifts, technological advances, and new ways of doing business. How will East Arkansas’ economy and society be different? How will we ensure lasting, impactful change? After two years of planning and data gathering, how will the results reflect what truly matters to our citizens? These are the questions we have had to ask throughout the process – and will continue to address, as this experience isn’t just at one moment in time, but lives on.The purpose of this plan is to, alongside our CEDS, inform our recovery efforts to emerge stronger in a very quickly evolving workplace and business environment, mainly through data and analytics, and through the development or strengthening of our existing and new partnerships with ties that will propel our region into a brighter future.
Change is inevitable. It can happen to us, or it can happen with us. Our goal is to create intentional change, encouraging new investments in today’s technology, and human and physical infrastructure that will have impacts in the areas identified as priorities. If not for the support of the Economic Development Administration and its supported Resiliency Coordinator position, we would not have had the capacity to pursue this endeavor with the success we have appreciated. Additionally, our efforts in resiliency planning have been greatly amplified by the technical support of our university center partners: The Delta Center for Economic Development at Arkansas State University; and the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Only through teamwork, partnerships and an inclusive approach can we expect to thrive as a region. EAPDD is deeply committed to our core values of quality, excellence, and customer service with integrity. Our ultimate goal is to have a positive impact on our communities, region, state, and nation. This requires our team to always be mindful of equity and inclusivity so to serve the broadest perspectives of our population. Through the use of data driven decision making, we focus on having the most inclusive understanding possible of issues and gaps we are trying to address.
CREATING OUR PLAN AND THIS REPORT
After two years, our resilience and recovery plan, and the research and analytics which have been developed as its backbone, has taken on new meaning. Though this is not a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), we have approached this project as a critically substantive lead-in “living document” to our upcoming CEDS process. Our implementation of this plan, and through the embrace of technology, will connect EAPDD and its partners in new, innovative ways to more efficiently understand issues and respond with greater success and connectivity to local, regional, state, and federal solutions.
With a focus on resilience and recovery in a new economy, this Plan is organized into six priority areas:
Enhancing Regional Governance & Planning
Health and Wellness
Broadband, Cyber Security, and Physical Infrastructure for Resilience
Affordable, Quality Housing
Priority areas have been designed to build upon one another to first establish a solid foundation of basic necessities before tackling more complex issues. Tasks have been identified to address issues “as we can see now”, but also to identify new and evolving issues over time through the formation of work groups and task forces. It is through these channels we will be able to keep this program “living” in a world where both conditions and needs are changing rapidly. Case-in-point: resiliency and recovery methods have profoundly changed even since the onset of this project, as have economic realities. Our goal is to be nimble in our response and programming. One final consideration was used in determining the relevance and appropriateness of recommended strategies and tasks: does/could the recommendation fall under the purview of the District? Plan implementation will be led by the District, while partnerships will play a critically important role. The District must be the regional leader and consider its existing and potential resources that can be invested in carrying out the plan.
The EAPDD Regional Taskforce provided guidance and assisted in refining the strategies and tasks/ initiatives identified in the Plan. The 23-member Taskforce is composed of a mix of public sector, private sector, and nonprofit individuals, all leaders throughout the region and in their specific community/county. It is hoped that their involvement will continue, serving on the region’s CEDS advisory team, performing annual reviews of progress on the Resilience and Recovery Action Plan and participating in future committee efforts.