Lufkin, TX: The T.L.L. Temple Foundation (TLLTF) recently awarded a three-year $375,000 grant to AR-TX Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) to lead innovative infrastructure development, entrepreneurship, and workforce initiatives in the Northeast Texas region. From its founding in 2018, AR-TX REDI has emerged as a regional anchor organization for economic development in Northeast Texas. AR-TX REDI is pursuing multiple regional initiatives that have the potential, individually and collectively, to accelerate regional development.
There is a clear need for pioneering regional efforts that can change the economic trajectory for Northeast Texas. TLLTF’s Rural East Texas Economic Opportunity Analysis, which was released in 2022, describes more than a decade of relative economic struggle in the Texarkana region, with pressures on middle-skill and middle wage workers.
Considering the economic stagnation, three priorities emerge that show promise for breaking through the status quo and charting a new course for Northeast Texas: 1) broadband infrastructure development, 2) entrepreneurial ecosystem-building, and 3) regionally aligned workforce training. This grant will support AR-TX REDI’s pursuit of ambitious innovations along each of these three priorities.
AR-TX REDI is leading the development of the Bowie County Broadband Partnership. This public-private partnership includes AR-TX REDI, Bowie County, Texarkana College, and the internet service provider Four States Fiber. The partnership’s plan is to develop a fiber network that reaches over 27,000 address points in Bowie County and to train the next generation of Northeast Texans for the varied fields in the broadband network data and management industry.
AR-TX REDI is also developing a business incubator space called “The Assembly Line” in downtown Texarkana. Combining broadband expansion, lending, entrepreneurship coaching, and small business support within one local space will be a first for rural East Texas. By eliminating the barriers that rural entrepreneurs face to creating new businesses and jobs, The Assembly Line can become a catalyst for the Texarkana region’s economic future.
Finally, AR-TX REDI is supporting Bowie County Texas and Miller County Arkansas to achieve and sustain ACT Work Ready Community status. ACT WorkKeys is a common framework based on the National Career Readiness Certificate that uses integrated data, processes, and tools to assess, certify, and grow local workforces. Through TLLTF’s grant support, the Texarkana Regional Chamber of Commerce is coordinating regional education, industry, and economic and workforce development leaders to certify Bowie and Miller counties as ACT Work Ready Communities.