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    Conway enlists Sen. Boozman, 3 colleges to boost economy

    8:08 PM, Oct 10, 2012   |    comments
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    CONWAY, Ark. -- Arkansas Senator John Boozman said Wednesday Central Arkansas' economy is improving, but Washington could be doing a lot more to convince hesitant employers to start hiring again.

    Boozman was talking with Today's THV during a news interview in Conway, a city that is aggressively going after new markets and more jobs.

    "Well, the name of the game, these days, is jobs, jobs, jobs," Boozman said.

    And Conway is fighting to win that game.

    The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce gave Boozman a tour of three of Faulkner County's biggest employers, including Conway Regional Medical Center.

    And Boozman said he hears the message loud and clear, from employers here and all across the state -- they do want to hire again.

    But first they have to know what Washington will do with taxes and health care costs.

    "If you don't know what your taxes are going to be in the future, if you don't know the cost of health care in the future, if you don't know what kind of regulations are coming down, it's very difficult right now, businesses are frozen because they don't know those things," Boozman said. "You can even live with bad rules if you know what the rules are. Right now, so many businesses simply don't know what the rules are, so it makes it difficult.... They simply don't know what to expect in the future. They don't know what they're taxes are going to be, they suspect that perhaps they're going to go up. They don't know what their health care costs are going to be, but they expect that they're going to go up. So rather than committing to expanding right now with the uncertainty, we just have a big wet blanket on the economy, right now."

    Boozman said Conway is doing better than many communities are across the country. Conway's unemployment is down, around six percent, now.

    And Conway business leaders are determined to get it lower.

    So they have not only enlisted Boozman's help, they have also managed to unite all three athletic directors, from the city's three colleges and universities, to work on a new publicity campaign, demonstrating the huge impact that college athletics is having on the local economy, on this "City of Colleges."

    They gathered at the Chamber of Commerce in Conway Wednesday morning for a news conference announcing the campaign-- Dr. Brad Teague of the University of Central Arkansas, Amy Weaver of Hendrix College, and Lyle Middleton of Central Baptist College.

    At the three institutions this year there are 14 sports programs, and 46 teams playing 342 games involving 842 student athletes.

    Dr. Teague said if UCA were to return to Division II from Division I, as some are suggesting the school should do, that would hurt the local economy.

    "Conway and Division I have made us much better, and the impact is so evident," Teague said, pointing out the additional revenues that the university has been attracting because of being in Division I. "We are better academically. Our student athletes graduate ten percentage points higher than the general student body. Our GPAs are 30 points higher than they were in Division II."

    One of Conway's missions is to remain the College Town Where Students Don't Leave.

    And as the Senator says -- play that jobs game to win.

    Conway's new, college-sports awareness campaign is called, simply, "I'm a Fan."

    There will be t-shirts and posters and billboards everywhere, promoting the impact of college sports on the economy from the programs at Hendrix College, Central Baptist College, and the University of Central Arkansas.

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