Following the announcement that Arkansas leaders have set a date to start reopening the state’s economy, a task force has been established to guide the economic recovery effort.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters that he has signed an executive order creating a new Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force. This task force, he said, will work to develop guidelines for industries to begin reopening in a manner consistent with public health requirements while also providing him with recommendations.
“To get there, it takes not just our public health team but it also takes the partnership and vision of industry and every aspect of our economy,” he said. “So, for that reason, today I am announcing that I signed an additional executive order that creates the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force.”
“The expectation of this task force is that they will meet in their industry groups and they will look at their own guidelines within their industry to see how they can [be] consistent with the public health requirements and allow them to expand in their industry, to open up more, to put this economy in higher gear, but to do it in a way that is consistent with public health requirement and that gives the public confidence.”
On Friday, April 17, Hutchinson announced that May 4 has been set as the target for reopening the state’s economy. Under President Donald Trump’s new “Open Up America Again” plan, states can begin reopening their economies if they meet specific public health criteria. The May 4 target date was selected based on guidance from the Governor’s Medical Advisory Committee for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response.
Ensuring public confidence in the economic reopening is a critical aspect of reopening process. Hutchinson noted that restaurants could reopen on May 4, but if there was no confidence that people would be safe, Arkansas citizens would likely “self-select” and not participate in the reopening.
The task force will be comprised of more than 25 business leaders representing a range of industries throughout Arkansas. Three of the members will be drawn from Hutchinson’s Cabinet. These members are Arkansas Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Preston, Arkansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward, and Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst.
According to Hutchinson, the list of task force members will be drawn from industries as disparate as small business, retail, sports, churches, and more.
The chairman for the task force will be Steuart Walton. Hutchinson called Walton the “perfect leader” for the task force, citing his industry experience and philanthropy efforts.
“He’s engaged in the hospitality industry. His family, of course, is in the retail industry. He’s engaged in philanthropy across the state of Arkansas. It’s that recognition of that small business person that we’ve got to keep an eye on because that’s where we want to get back to work,” he said.
Other notable members of the task force include Deke Whitbeck of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek and Randy Zook of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
Hutchinson said the first meeting for the task force will take place in the coming week. Afterwards, they are expected to begin making recommendations to Hutchinson and their industry groups.
See the full list of the task force membership below:
- Steuart Walton, Runway Group (Chair)
- Wes Ward, Department of Agriculture
- Mike Preston, Department of Commerce
- Stacy Hurst, Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism
- Ted Thomas, Public Service Commission
- Randy Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
- Sylvester Smith, National Federation of Independent Business
- Joey Dean, Associated General Contractors of Arkansas
- Annemarie Jazic, Dillard’s Inc.
- Charlie Spakes, Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association
- Montine McNulty, Arkansas Hospitality Association
- Kelly Eichler, Indoor Recreational Facilities
- Deke Whitbeck, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation
- Lance Taylor, Arkansas Activities Association
- Hunter Yurachek, University of Arkansas
- Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association
- Charles Frazier, Rock Region METRO
- Lorrie Trogden, Arkansas Bankers Association
- Dr. Sonny Tucker, Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention
- Bishop Gary Mueller, Arkansas Conference of United Methodists
- Bishop Michael Mitchell, African Methodist Episcopal Church 12th District
- Dr. Richard Abernathy, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators
- Andy Goodman, Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities
- Andrea Henderson, Arkansas Association of Community Colleges
- Dr. Chuck Welch, Arkansas State University System
- David Wroten, Arkansas Medical Society
- Bo Ryall, Arkansas Hospital Association