The following story appeared in the April 20, 2022 edition of the Camden News
In a unanimous vote last week, the City of Camden approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Julian Lott to enter into a contract with the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development (OPED).
OPED Executive Director James Lee Silliman gave a brief explanation of OPED, highlighting some of the group's 2021 efforts.
"As everybody here should know, Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development is our lead development agency for Camden and Ouachita County," Silliman said. "It's a partnership between the city of Camden, Ouachita County, Camden Chamber of Commerce and Camden Area Industrial Development Corporation. It was created back in 2001 and initially funded with a city sales tax and that tax expired in 2005 and was not renewed. So we've been existed on funds through those remaining tax funds, and most recently, in the last couple of years, Ouachita County Quorum court has stepped up and also provided us with funding."
Silliman touted the Camden Accelerated Business Services and other activities OPED has been involved in since last January.
"(The Camden Accelerated Business Service) is a free service that we are able to provide to people that are interested in starting a business in Camden or Ouachita County. We provide this service with the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center from (Southern Arkansas University) at Magnolia. This past year or so they've provided small business counseling to 65 clients with 323 hours of consulting, all free of charge," Silliman said.
As for Silliman himself, he told the council said he participated in six conference calls with potential prospective businesses and met with 12 prospects and attended 52 on site meetings last year.
"We have begun and we attended the ACT Work Ready Communities Zoom Boot Camp in January and our team fr0m Ouachita County successfully completed the camp. We're working towards national certification as a Work Ready Community for Camden and Ouachita County, there's a lot of hurdles and steps," Silliman said.
Silliman said it would be an effective marketing tool for the community once completed.
According to a press release from OPED in February, "The ACT® Work Ready Communities (ACT® WRC) initiative empowers states, regions and counties with data, processes and tools that drive economic growth by identifying skills gaps and quantifying the skill level of their workforce."
He also noted the OPED is working with SAU Tech on holding a planned job fair on April 26.
Silliman concluded his remarks noting that he is also working with a prospect involved in the timber industry that may locate in Ouachita County.