East Arkansas Planning & Development District (EAPDD) is one of eight planning and development districts formed in the state of Arkansas as a result of the vision of then-Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. Governor Rockefeller and the Arkansas General Assembly, in 1969 through Act 118, designated the eight regions as the state’s official multi-county planning and regional economic development organizations. This distinction followed two years of negotiations with the then-recently formed Economic Development Administration (EDA) to create such regions throughout the state.
The District’s purpose is to promote and support the economic development of the region. It does this by providing technical assistance to the cities, counties, businesses, and other development organizations in the area, and by networking extensively with state and federal resource agencies.
EAPDD encompasses a geography territory of 8,000 square miles, roughly the same land mass as the state of New Jersey. It serves more than 390,000 citizens from its 12 territory. These counties are linked by common economic issues and challenges including generational poverty, population loss, and poor educational attainment.
EAPDD’s board of directors is comprised of the region’s county judges, the highest ranking elected official in each jurisdiction, as well as several mayors, and at-large board members.
The organization is the direct project administrator for grants received by communities from the Economic Development Administration, Delta Regional Authority, and Arkansas Economic Development Commission. EAPDD works with its local elected officials and other leaders to develop a steady stream of community and economic development projects for regular submission to these agencies. EAPDD also manages environmental service needs for six of its southern-most counties and a revolving loan fund through EDA.
In 2011, EAPDD was awarded a U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. Through this project, the District has worked directly with 20 communities (12 counties; 8 municipalities) in the development of a locally-driven community and economic development strategic plan. As part of these planning efforts, participating steering committees have assisted EAPDD in redeveloping its own internal strategic blueprint of the way it serves its constituents. As opposed to seeking ways to tie communities to programs solely based on available options through its key partnering agencies, EAPDD now strives to find investment opportunities for the region based on the needs specifically defined by communities during their respective planning process.
The locally-driven community and economic development plans provide the foundation for several other regional initiatives of the overall HUD grant program, which has been named “reNEW East Arkansas.” These activities include a regional housing analysis, regional land use and transportation scenario plan, extensive community engagement, a data management platform, and an underutilized asset inventory.