About AEDI

Mission

To provide research and strategies to state, community and industry leaders to promote economic growth and enhance the quality of life in Arkansas.

Vision

The main asset for economic development information for communities and industry in Arkansas.

Message from the Director

 

Our mission is to serve the people of Arkansas by enhancing economic development and improving their quality of life and place.

Our team’s greatest strength is collaborating with communities and organizations to help them discover sustainable solutions through real talk.

We are proud to serve Arkansas and welcome your call for assistance.

Jim Youngquist

Executive Director

Meet Our Team

April Campbell

April Campbell

Community Economic Development Specialist

Explain what you do all day…
The majority of my day is spent working with communities to figure out solutions to problems, build on their accomplishments, and plan their future.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I received a BSBA from the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Reynolds College of Business at UA Little Rock. My previous work experience includes working in Governor Mike Beebe’s administration, Arkansas Legislature, multiple political campaigns and for the Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Two words: rural communities. In my experience, when someone cares enough to want to help the economically disadvantaged, losing population, most rural communities; they are incredibly grateful. Like make you homemade soup and cookies when you come to meetings grateful. The long days of research, planning, and analyzing are sometimes fruitless and frustrating. But sometimes you find that one inkling of an idea that turns into a solution that completely changes the quality of life for that community. That is priceless.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Everyone matters. Never think you’re above anyone…and never think you’re beneath. Treat the Janitor the same way you treat the CEO.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Some sort of detective – FBI style.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Make old things new again! I can lose days thrift shopping and turning finds into DIY projects, that are turned into new treasures for me or others!

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
The farm I grew up on. There is no sunset that has ever compared. The nostalgia I feel when I go back is incomparable and makes me reflect on all the lessons I learned there. It means very little to most people, but to me it’s the world.

Diego Caraballo

Diego Caraballo

Demographer

Explain what you do all day…
Collect, analyze, and interpret demographic data for projects or blog posts.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
Obtained a Master’s Degree in demography and have worked as an independent data analyst for several investigators and groups.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Being able to help people learn about others around them.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It is not a sprint, it is a marathon.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
doing work with other organizations that are also focused on helping people.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Community Economic Development Specialist

Explain what you do all day…
I spend my days working on research, planning, and public presentations geared toward helping local leaders and elected officials address their economic development, taxation, city services, and public initiative needs.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
A Master in Public Administration, almost 10 years of economic development experience, and 20 years of seeing communities devastated by companies moving production overseas.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Seeing communities come together to improve their futures.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Life and business is about relationships, so never ever burn a bridge.”

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
A juggler in the circus.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Golf.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
The Buffalo River.

Zach Cook

Zach Cook

Finance Assistant

Explain what you do all day…
The majority of my day is spent working with the budget of AEDI.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I am a undergraduate student at University of Arkansas at Little Rock majoring in Accounting.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Even though I do not work directly with the communities I get enjoyment out of the fact that my job supports those that do help the rural communities around the state.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Everyone matters. Never think you’re above anyone…and never think you’re beneath. Treat the Janitor the same way you treat the CEO.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Flight Instructor. I love to fly and I been told I am a pretty good teacher.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Again Flying airplanes, there is nothing that I have done that comes close to the feeling that I get when I am in the pilot seat.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
My favorite place has to be Highway 89 raceway. It is a small motocross track that everyone is helping to keep open after the owner pasted away. The level of community support out there is incredible and to see so many people ban together keep something going is inspiring.

Susan Jackson

Susan Jackson

Graphic Designer

Explain what you do all day…
I use graphic design technology to provide a wide-range of routine-to-complex, high-quality products for AEDI and its clients such: publications, reports, brochures, cover designs, illustrations, logos, advertisements, posters, digital signage, forms, certificates, badges, labels, and other miscellaneous items in both hard-copy and digital formats.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have been professionally employed as a graphic designer some 30+ years.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
I like to believe that my small contribution to the work AEDI does is helping to make Arkansas a better place to live.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Starring in Broadway Musicals.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Gardening and movies.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
The Ozarks.

Kevin Koonce

Kevin Koonce

GIS Analyst

Explain what you do all day…
Analyze spatial data through mapping software and designing digital maps with geographic data and various other data sets.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have over 20 years of GIS experience with a degree in geography.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
When all of our specialties come together to produce a final product that makes the client happy.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Working for Starfleet Academy.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Watching sports and playing games.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Petit Jean Mountain.

Grainger Ledbetter

Grainger Ledbetter

Community Economic Development Specialist

Explain what you do all day…
I work with other professionals at AEDI on projects designed to promote community based economic development in Arkansas. I also edit studies, reports and projects the Institute prepare for public and private clients.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have an English Degree and a Master’s in Public History. My extensive experience in public education, both as a classroom teacher and a representative for teachers, gave me the opportunity to work with community leaders across the state and gain hands on experience with local and state government.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Working with people from all walks of life who have joined together to improve their town or community.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never be afraid of change.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Pursing my interest in local and state history.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Take long hikes in the Ozarks.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
The area in and around the upper reaches of the Buffalo River.

Terre McLendon

Terre McLendon

Research Specialist

Explain what you do all day…
I provide information and technical assistance to community and economic developers throughout Arkansas. To do that, I may perform internet searches, set up and administer surveys, hold focus groups, or work one-on-one with developers or elected officials.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have Masters degrees in Marketing and Economics, and have been working in this field for about 40 years. If an economic or community development issue arises in Arkansas, chances are I have encountered something similar. If I haven’t, my research skills are useful in identifying ways other communities have attacked the same issue.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
When a community has achieved success in their efforts to improve, when a new business opens, or when new jobs appear; and my work has played a role in their achievement, I feel great satisfaction in making Arkansas a better place to live and work.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There’s a reason why we have two ears and only one mouth. Listen before you speak.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
running a restaurant.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
I love traveling. I’ve visited 38 states, and want to see the rest in the next few years.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
I LOVE the state parks in Arkansas. Every one of them is unique and interesting in some way. Arkansas is blessed with a great deal of natural beauty, and our state parks system puts it on display and makes it accessible to everyone. It is something to be very proud of!

MIchael Pakko

MIchael Pakko

Chief Economist & State Economic Forecaster

Explain what you do all day…
Track incoming economic statistics on the Arkansas economy.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
PhD in Economics, University of Rochester (1994). Economist and Research Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 1993-2009.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Seeing the smiles of interest and appreciation in an audience or classroom, despite the fact that the topic is “the dismal science.”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Eighty percent of success is showing up.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
in a classroom, teaching economics.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Gardening and landscaping.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Buffalo River.

Sara Prior

Sara Prior

Research Assistant

Explain what you do all day…
As a research assistant, I spend my time researching information, processing data, and writing.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology from UAMS. Even though I’m now in a different field, I still use many of the same skills. I’m currently working on my master’s in business information systems at UA Little Rock. I am applying the techniques that I’m learning in my classes to analyze data for AEDI projects.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Simply knowing that the projects that I work on will have a direct impact on the community.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s impossible to succeed if you don’t even try.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Just a student.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
I’m a life-long gamer, but being a graduate student takes most of my time outside of work these days.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
The Little Rock Riverfront, especially when the farmers’ market is open.

David Rasmussen

David Rasmussen

Associate Research Specialist

Explain what you do all day…
I administer websites, databases, and online surveys. I am called to do a variety of IT tasks for this organization.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
My credentials include a Masters in Management Information Systems, and a Microsoft Certification for server work. For many years my experiences at AEDI were specific to database and data processing tasks. More recently I spend more time deploying websites and working on servers.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
This above all: to thine ownself be true.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Something involving IT for another campus or government agency.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Enjoy my time with my family.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
My own home.

Carlos Silva

Carlos Silva

Regional Economist

Explain what you do all day…
Conduct economic and statistical analyses related to local issues.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
Previous experienced and education focused on economic development.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Helping communities around the state.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Little Rock.

Janet Turner-Dooley

Janet Turner-Dooley

Administrative Assistant

Explain what you do all day…
Assisting Financial Analysts Answer telephone and direct calls to appropriate parties Process correspondence, reports, documents, schedules, etc. Establish, organize and maintain departmental files Accumulate financial information on various external organizations by utilizing internal and external sources Maintain client related expenses, prepare documentation for billing of clients Prepare documents used in client presentations, coordinate printing and distribution of material Help with miscellaneous functions such as travel arrangement, arranging meetings and luncheons, preparing expense reports, processing mail, etc.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
My qualifications are reinforced by credentials that include my associate degree in office management.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Doing something that matters to others.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never get into a situation that you can’t get out of.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
I would probably be working at DHS office.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Attending sporting events.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Alison Wright

Alison Wright

Statistician

Explain what you do all day…
I can usually be found sitting at my computer playing with spreadsheets. I work with all kinds of data, including Census data. My day consists of helping others find data, gathering data for projects, and working with the data.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have a Masters Degree in Statistics with ten years experience in research and data anaylsis.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
When we get to help people across the state accomplish things to better their communities and organizations. Knowing I get to play a small part in that means a lot to me.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Strive to be a better person today than you were yesterday. Pray for God’s help to be a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person each day.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
planning my next trip to Disney World.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
I enjoy spending time with my family and church family. Nothing makes my heart happy like playing with my nieces and nephews.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Besides home, Lake Catherine is my favorite place in Arkansas.

Randy Wright

Randy Wright

Deputy Director

Explain what you do all day…
Check in and consult with persons working on projects, attempt to provide assistance if needed and generally enjoy their company.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
Have taught or facilitated since 1989; As an attorney, I did substantial writing , researching and oral presentations I headed a state agency in the late 80’s early 90’s and have worked in the area of public service for over 25 years. I am a life-long Arkansan and understand the needs and concerns of the many Arkansas communities with which we work.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
The opportunity to work with communities, and possibly raise hopes and build projects that will make their communities better.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Be yourself at all times and avoid judgment of others.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
much poorer.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Fantasy baseball and cooking.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Allsopp Park in Little Rock.

Jim Youngquist

Jim Youngquist

Executive Director

Explain what you do all day…
I direct the work program of the Institute and act as a liaison between the Institute and our public and private economic development partners throughout Arkansas.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
Master of Urban and Regional Planning. I have served as an executive director of a regional development organization, and, a professional development association. I have also served as a regional governance and strategic initiatives consultant both nationally and internationally.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
The opportunity to work with communities, and possibly raise hopes and build projects that will make their communities better.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Be a good listener and when you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say, I don’t know.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
trying to get a senior citizen public relations position at Keeneland.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Spend time with my twin grandsons and granddaughter.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
The Delta. It is southern and it is peaceful.