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Arkansas' Position in the Knowledge-based Economy: Prospects and Policy Options
Sep 01, 2004
Ross DeVol, Kevin Klowden, Jeffery Collins and Lorna Wallace, with Perry Wong and Armen Bedroussian

A fundamental transformation is occurring in the world. The economy is shifting toward knowledge-based jobs, giving areas that take advantage of this shift a significant economic edge against regional competitors.

For Arkansas to compete in this 21st century economy, it must accelerate its ability to compete for these jobs if it expects to keep pace with other states, according to this wide-ranging study.

"Arkansas has been operating at the periphery of the knowledge-based economy," says the report, Arkansas' Position in the Knowledge-based Economy: Prospects and Policy Options."Arkansas has been making progress, but most states are focused on investing heavily and nurturing key institutions to improve their position in the knowledge-based economy. Arkansas is starting behind other states in the knowledge-based economy race. Therefore, it is necessary to implement both incremental improvements and dramatic change to lift its position and begin to close the gap."

The study, written by scholars at the Milken Institute in conjunction with the University of Arkansas' Center for Business and Economic Research, was commissioned by Accelerate Arkansas, a statewide volunteer group working to develop a strategic plan for building and accelerating knowledge-based industries and jobs.

It is one in a series of reports by the Institute's Regional Economics group on the high-tech, high-skilled worker assets of states around the country.

The key findings:

  • The state has made important progress in improving its knowledge-based assets, especially in the area of the number of new high-tech firms that have set up shop in Arkansas.
  • But the state's underachieving education system, limited workforce skills and limited technology resources will stunt its growth unless major improvements are made in these areas.
  • Arkansas' low business costs, abundant financial resources, strong manufacturing base and strong food processing and retail industries are big pluses that leaders must maintain and build on.
  • But these are not enough in today's knowledge-based economy. The state must attract and grow its knowledge-based assets -- research facilities, entrepreneurial startups and highly educated workers -- and leverage them for economic development.

Excerpt:

"The state of Arkansas currently stands at the threshold of a knowledge-based economy. The question that faces the state's leaders should not be one of whether or not Arkansas wants to be part of this new economy, but of how the leaders can ensure that the state actively participates in it and can use this participation to benei??t people across the entire state. The state can simply not afford to be left behind as the rest of the country continues to move forward. Arkansas does not have to abandon its economic legacy of manufacturing, food processing and retail in order to embrace knowledge-based industries. Instead, the state can build upon its historical strengths as it prepares itself for the economic challenges of the next 20 years."