Arkansas "pariah" and butt of jokes

(February 5, 2004) - (Hope-AP) -- A county economic development official says Arkansas has become a pariah among companies looking to relocate or build new facilities. Judy Davis says a lack of leadership in the legislature during the school reform debate is scaring companies away from Arkansas. Davis is president of the Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation. Davis says companies the group has tried to recruit recently have all mentioned they were ruling Arkansas out for the time being because of the state's failure to overhaul its schools. She says the backers of one project told her they would not invest in Arkansas for at least four years because of the failure to reform the public education system. Davis says Arkansas residents are getting some of the blame, too, since few have stepped up and demanded the legislature make meaningful changes in the education system. Davis says she's tried to remain positive in light of the negative comments she hears from out-of-state businesses and industries. She said one friend in Georgia offered some new marketing slogans: "Arkansas, we do it the way we did it in the 1930s, just not as good." "Arkansas, come here and we'll tax you to death and you can't ever leave." "Arkansas, available work force, plentiful and very available, if you're looking for basketball players and football players who can't read, write or do math."