About AEDI

Our Mission

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

Our Vision

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

“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, AEDI

Meet Our Team

Logan
Benson

Community Economic Development Planner

Amber Berg

Community Economic Development Planner

Diego Caraballo

Demographer

Mike
Collins

Community Economic Development Specialist

Zach
Cook

Assistant Finance Manager

A. LaMar
Hoy

Community Economic Development Planner

Susan
Jackson

Graphic Designer

Tosin
James

GIS Analyst

Kevin
Koonce

GIS Division Head

Grainger Ledbetter

Community Economic Development Specialist

Miles McDonnell

Emergency Management Specialist

Terre McLendon

Senior Research Specialist

Michael
Pakko

Chief Economist & State Economic Forecaster

Sara
Prior

Systems & Data Analyst

David Rasmussen

IT Specialist

Carlos
Silva

Regional Economist & Economic Research Division Head

Janet Turner-Dooley

Administrative Assistant

Alison
Wright

Data Center
Division Head

Randy
Wright

Logistics & Production Division Head

Jim
Youngquist

Executive Director

Logan Benson

Community Economic Development Planner

Explain what you do all day…

My work with AEDI includes working alongside the other wonderful members of the Community Development Team to conduct research involving the economic and social wellbeing of various cities/townships/regions and develop actionable plans with these communities on how to better utilize available resources in the pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from The Ohio State University.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?

What inspires me most about the work I do with AEDI is the fact you can go out to Pine Bluff and Jasper and see how work we participated in had a positive impact on the real world and the lives of real people.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of advice I have thus far received in my life is from one of undergraduate professors and mentors, “When you know what you want to do, don’t ever stop trying to make it a reality.”

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

If I wasn’t working here at AEDI, I would find work with an architecture and streetscape firm to work with communities from the standpoint of design and aesthetic.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.

One thing I love doing outside of work is cooking. Anything from starting from a single ingredient and making a whole new recipe to taking pre-determined recipe and putting my own spins on it.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?

I haven’t been in the state very long but one place I have found a definite love for is the Argenta area of North Little Rock. As someone who loves the environment of a good restaurant and bar, Argenta is exactly what I look for when coming to a new city.

Amber Berg

Community Economic Development Planner

Explain what you do all day…
Identify communities’ needs, and bring together data and information from different organizations and stakeholders to come up with strategies for stronger communities.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I got my Master’s in Regional and Community Planning and worked as a Regional Planner in Kansas. 

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Serving communities big and small from all over the state. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There’s a bingo hall off Pursing Rd. 

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Working in transportation planning, helping connect people to their communities and improve their access to resources.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
Crochet and spend time with my cats, Potato and Mango.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
Anywhere there’s tofu.

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

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

Assistant Finance Manager

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’ve 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.

A. LaMar Hoy

Community Economic Development Planner

Explain what you do all day…
I collaborate with other members of the AEDI team in order to better coordinate with community leaders, government officials and other stakeholders to improve the quality of the workforce and the quantity of available jobs in the State of Arkansas. I also assist the AEDI team in facilitating request from outside or partner agencies. These requests can range from or include: research, community outreach and data collection.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?
I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University. I also have many years of community engagement and research experience.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Helping communities realize and achieve goals that improve the lives of their constituents.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To listen twice as much as I talk.

If I wasn’t working at AEDI, I would probably be…
Working as an Urban Consultant for a nonprofit.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.
I enjoy performing, things like singing, acting and stand-up comedy.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?
My favorite place in Arkansas is my office at AEDI.

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.

Tosin James

GIS Analyst

Explain what you do all day…

Analyzing, Mapping and Modelling of Spatial data to explain and solve community problems

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?

Master in Geosciences with concentration in spatial analysis

What is the most inspiring part of your job?

Knowing that my contribution helps to inform policies and decision making

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Pure heart and gracious speech makes you a friend of the king

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

Working in a similar organization

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.

Experimenting with food (cooking)

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?

Little Rock

Kevin Koonce

GIS Division Head

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

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.

Miles McDonnell

Emergency Management Specialist

Explain what you do all day…

I’m passionate about service to my community. I want to expand our capabilities to offer support and assistance to first responders, communities, businesses, and families during the worst times of their lives.

What are your credentials and/or past experience that relate to your work at AEDI?

I have an undergraduate degree in Emergency Management. I have previous experience working as a Paramedic and in the Fire Service.

What is the most inspiring part of your job?

Getting to utilize my experience and education to serve in a new way.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Never stop learning, and you can learn something from everyone.

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

Continuing to work as a Paramedic, advocating for Community Paramedicine in the state.

Name one thing you like to do outside of AEDI.

Camping.

What/where is your favorite place in Arkansas?

The Woolum area, on the Buffalo River.

Terre McLendon

Senior 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

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

Systems & Data Analyst

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

IT 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

Regional Economist & Economic Research Division Head

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

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

Data Center Division Head

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

Logistics & Production Division Head

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

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.