From 2010 to 2013, Maher & Maher provided strategic planning, facilitation, and related assistance to the Southeast Arkansas Growth Initiative, or SGI. SGI is an initiative that is enabling the 14-county Southeast Arkansas region to respond to the phased layoffs of approximately 1,100 workers caused by the completion of the Pine Bluff Arsenal’s chemical weapons storage and disposal missions, and to enhance the region’s long-term economic diversity and competitiveness.
A critical early component of the SGI project was conducting extensive social network mapping throughout the large and diverse region. The network mapping exercise and resulting report indicated that perceived leadership was highly-concentrated among a small number of individuals, which can indicate over-dependence and a lack of resilience. Network mapping also revealed the need to enhance connections among a larger and more diverse group of individuals throughout the region. The network mapping exercise provided crucial insight as we assisted SGI in forming and expanding its regional Leadership Group and the four Core Teams that worked to develop the regional implementation plan.
As part of this project, Maher & Maher partner Future iQ Partners facilitated a Scenario Planning/Visioning exercise with the Leadership Group, and our partner Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) completed a regional asset map report; a focus industries analysis and report; and the Pine Bluff Arsenal Workforce Assessment and Industry Analysis Report, which maps the Arsenal workers’ skills and competencies to those that are in-demand in targeted regional industries, and then crosswalks current regional educational output to regional industry needs. The Maher team also provided extensive support for enhancing workforce development and education services for impacted Arsenal workers, including designing worker surveys and assessments and facilitating a worker services process mapping exercise to better align and coordinate career coaching, training, and reemployment services among workforce and education partners in the region.
In December 2010, Maher & Maher delivered a comprehensive and ambitious regional economic and workforce development strategic implementation plan to the SGI Leadership Group, which represents regional stakeholders from education, workforce development, the private sector, government, the non-profit community, and philanthropy. This plan organizes and presents the extensive work of the Leadership Group since its first meeting in June 2010, and may be accessed below. Plan strategies foster entrepreneurial partnerships and investment; improve regional infrastructure and technology; support growth in strategically-targeted industries; and develop an accessible and integrated regional talent development system, all within a clear framework for sustainability.
The plan provided a concrete roadmap for action in the region, marking the SGI’s transition from planning to implementation. This is a crucial transition in any regional economic and workforce development effort, one that we sometimes term “the end of the beginning.”
After an intervening ten-month period, Maher & Maher re-engaged with SGI to support implementation of two of its priority plan strategies: (1) development of career pathways within the context of a manufacturing industry sector growth effort; and (2) expansion of the region’s life and agricultural sciences industry cluster. To support these critical initiatives, Maher facilitated a number of focus groups and planning sessions, bringing together diverse populations within the region to forge consensus and enlist participation. As a result, both initiatives are now well underway.