Keeping with our recent focus on improving workforce development in the South, it would be wise to acknowledge and learn from the accomplishments of Winthrop Rockefeller during his time as chairman of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. The following is an excerpt from “The Win Rockefeller Story” — a mini-biography used as campaign literature during his 1966 run for Governor of Arkansas.  

In March of 1955, Winthrop Rockefeller became chairman of the new Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. He has described this as the time in which he really began to travel the state and meet the people in all its regions.

The AIDC was created by the Legislature with the mission of bringing in new industry to the state and to help existing industry to expand. The Legislature had set up the commission because it was found that an employment emergency existed in Arkansas. Population had been declining for years as Arkansas job seekers had to find employment elsewhere. The standard of living was not keeping pace with the rest of the country. The brightest young people were leaving Arkansas to find their futures elsewhere. At the same time an industry might hesitate to come to Arkansas, because its officials felt they could not find the trained and skilled labor they needed.

Under Mr. Rockefeller’s leadership an expert plant-location organization was established. A nationwide, personalized solicitation of industry was launched, and basic information needed by business executives in making decisions on plant locations was developed. It worked. Plants began to move here. Arkansas’s industry program became the envy of other states and they have followed our lead.

Within Arkansas itself, a program was undertaken to speed community development projects and to prepare cities and towns to deal with industrial prospects and assist in planning industrial areas. When Mr. Rockefeller decided to run for governor and resigned from the AIDC in April 1964, he was able to report these accomplishments:

  • More than 600 new industrial plants were established. They were scattered throughout the state in a deliberate effort to bring industry to all parts of Arkansas.
  • Particular attention was given to the small communities and rural areas that had heretofore been almost entirely dependent on farming.
  • Some 90,000 new jobs had been created.
  • $270 million of annual payroll had been added as a result of the additional jobs.
  • The average income in Arkansas had nearly doubled. The average family had more food on the table and savings in the bank. Much of this was due to bringing in more industry, including plants in rural areas — food processing plants and the like.

The Middle South News commented editorially during his tenure as chairman of the AIDC: “Unlike many comparable state industrial development agencies, professionalism, rather than politics, characterizes the AIDC. Its national advertisements, brochures, economic compilations, community investors — the persuasive tools of industrial development — all bespeak this professionalism.”


  1. 1
    Marshall Ray on February 2, 2024

    I admire “professionalism rather than politics”. It’s what’s needed in all we do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *