District 94 is home to 14 public schools, 2 charter schools, and private-parochial school. The population as of the last census show nearly 30% of the population of District 94 under the age of 18. We have some of the highest ranked schools in the state and have standing nationally. We need to continue to support our teachers and ensure the safety of our students and faculty. Education from pre-K through post-graduation has to continue to be funded and encouraged. In addition to k-12, workforce training is essential to growing our productive employee base. Not all high school graduates should attend college, but all graduates need further training. A skilled workforce, through vocational, technical and community college training is essential to attracting outside industry and the creation of a thriving economy.
Benton County is the fastest growing county in the state of Arkansas and part of one of the fastest grown MSA’s in the US. My District has 3 Interstate interchanges. Two of which will have extensive reworking of the current ingress and egress. District 94 is dissected by US Highway 71B. Over the next couple of years, a handful of miles of 71B from Dixieland Road to 8th Street will be widened to a five-lane road. This area is also the most densely populated district in Benton County and contains miles of water and sewer lines. The piping is aging and will need expansion and replacement. Our infrastructure in the United States helps separate us from developing countries. Without safe drinking water and sanitation, disease is rampant, industry and growth are stifled. Transportation of goods, services and people are dependent upon good, drivable roads. Without them, the economy grinds to a halt. While is it important to maintain what we currently have, it is vitally important that we have a vision for future growth and expansion.
Northwest Arkansas has been a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity for decades. That entrepreneurial spirit needs to be nurtured to continue. Access to capital has become more restrictive nationally and locally as well. There are great incubators in Northwest Arkansas that have helped numerous start-ups, but we need additional mentoring to help those businesses that are outside of the circle of the Big 3 companies in the area remain in the here and viable. Many of those small businesses, much like my husband’s company, have moved to areas like Dallas, Houston, Bay Area to get the needed investment and help that was not accessible here. We also need to encourage support sector employees in areas like nursing, teaching, plumbing, maintenance to come and stay in District 94 and supply much needed services so our economy can continue to grow. Without a diverse economic base, an area’s economy becomes unbalanced and will require a correction, which can be painful to many. Let’s get in front of an economic correction by encouraging growth and diversification.