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Opportunity Arkansas Initiative

The Alliance for Rural Impact (ARI) and its partners at Gill Ragon Owen Law Firm serve as community liaison to support the implementation of the Opportunity Arkansas initiative.

Opportunity Arkansas, an initiative of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and Winrock International, will build the capacity of local officials to develop projects, review potential investment opportunities, and develop a marketplace to promote Opportunity Zones in the State of Arkansas. The purpose is to assist local leaders in developing investable projects that bolster small businesses and revitalize Arkansas communities, as well as create an online avenue for citizens, community leaders, venture capitalists and others to submit and search for Opportunity Zone projects.

Opportunity Arkansas will create an Opportunity Zone-focused strategy across the State of Arkansas. This project will focus on 47 Opportunity Zones in the Delta Regional Authority footprint of the state and 38 Opportunity Zones in the western region of the state. Most of these zones are in communities with populations of 25,000 or less. While larger communities may have some additional capacity to develop and promote Opportunity Zone projects, a gap in understanding and how to appropriately develop projects remains. In smaller communities, education, capacity building and technical support is imperative for more rural areas to compete.

Opportunity Arkansas brings together critical education and outreach with technical expertise on project development, review and diligence to assist the region in developing projects that create jobs and revitalize our state. This comprehensive approach will help communities develop, market and identify projects that are better suited for other investment opportunities, thereby ensuring that all revitalization efforts receive some support and are developed to reach their full potential.

Opportunity Arkansas Resource Links:

Opportunity Arkansas Initiative Community Liaison Team

Jamie R. Wright

Jamie R. Wright

Executive Director

Jamie R. Wright is co-founder and Executive Director of Alliance for Rural Impact (ARI), a nonprofit organization serving rural and tribal America. ARI is a collective partnership of technical assistance experts focused on community equity. The ARI team is solutions-focused and adept in financial stabilization and growth, strategic planning and analysis, capacity building and long-term implementation that brings about positive changes and community prosperity. Jamie leads marketing, outreach and networking efforts for the organization along with curriculum design, implementation, research, and resource identification.

Jamie is a natural connector and spends much of her time interacting with community and economic development professionals as well as development finance practitioners to advocate for and advance the ARI mission. She designs organizational marketing, website and communication materials as well as ARI’s agricultural financial literacy curriculum.

Previously, Jamie served as Deputy Director at East Arkansas Planning and Development District where she administered and managed a $2.6 million US Department of Housing and Urban Development Regional Sustainability Planning Grant. She managed a team that developed, administered and implemented over 300 economic and community development projects with an average investment total of $25 million per year. Jamie coordinated the development of a regional food system analysis for 15 counties in the tri-state region, which led to the development of a collaborative value-chain distribution program.

Prior to her time at EAPDD, Jamie served as Economic Development Director for the City of Harrisburg. During this time, she founded the Harrisburg Historic District and subsequent Farmers Market as well as planned and managed the largest in-fill project for the City at that time. She also founded the Harrisburg High School Alumni Association, a nonprofit organization that works to provide academic scholarships to local students.

Jamie serves as the mission coordinator and administrator for the Bread of Life Food Pantry, a mission of the Harrisburg First United Methodist Church and Harrisburg Ministerial Alliance. The Pantry serves western Poinsett County residents in need, supports the local school district backpack program, oversees meal delivery to homebound residents and is fiscal agent and support to the Mobile Bread of Life Food Pantry, which serves community college campuses in the northeast United Methodist district. Jamie currently serves as a board member to the Arkansas State University Methodist Ministry, Wesley Foundation. She is a former member of the City of Harrisburg Economic Development Committee and Crossroads Coalition’s Delta Leadership development committee.

Jamie holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing from Arkansas State University.

Jennifer G. Watkins

Jennifer G. Watkins

Director of Operations

Jennifer G. Watkins is the co-founder and Director of Operations for the Alliance for Rural Impact (ARI), a mission-driven nonprofit and emerging CDFI based in Northeast Arkansas. The organization is designed to assist rural and tribal communities with implementation by providing needed resources such as expertise, capital and a vast network of partners and advocates from across the nation. The ARI team is solutions-focused and adept in financial stabilization and growth, strategic planning and analysis, capacity building and long-term implementation that brings about positive changes and community prosperity. Jennifer leads project and program development efforts on behalf of ARI, along with curriculum design, implementation, research, resource identification and fundraising.

Jennifer is a strong advocate for rural communities, spending her entire career of over 20 years working to improve the economic and quality of life conditions of small towns and tribes around the country. Implementation has always been a focus of her work. For rural communities, this requires creative thinking, partnership development and unrelenting determinedness, all skills Jennifer has honed and now brings to ARI.

Prior to founding ARI, Jennifer worked for a small consulting firm conducting strategic planning efforts in over 35 communities across the country. She served as the lead consultant for a $4 million, 12-county regional planning effort for the East Arkansas Planning & Development District, a project that introduced her to the Delta region. It was this project – in a place where rural poverty is rampant – that inspired the development of ARI.

Before embarking on her consulting journey, Jennifer served for thirteen years as a local practitioner in her hometown in rural eastern Oregon. Jennifer worked with local businesses to develop sound business plans, access financing, diversify their products, reach larger markets and plan for their futures. She also completed several multi-million-dollar projects, developed successful economic development campaigns, facilitated long-range planning processes and secured millions of dollars in grant funding. She has served on dozens of boards and committees in her community, all with the mission of improving the economy and livability for its residents.

Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Eastern Oregon University, with a concentration in Leadership, Organization & Management.

Christopher L. Travis

Christopher L. Travis

University of Arkansas at Little Rock (B.A., 1994; J.D., 1997

Chris Travis is a shareholder and director of Gill Ragon Owen, P.A.  Chris has substantial experience in structuring and documenting corporate and municipal debt transactions and the private placement of corporate securities. Chris is a member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers, and is a nationally recognized bond counsel. Chris also represents real estate developers and lenders in commercial transactions in Arkansas and nationwide.  Additionally, Chris advises Qualified Opportunity Fund managers, investors, businesses, and developers in complex transactions related to the Qualified Opportunity Zone program created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The readers of Little Rock Soiree Magazine in 2012 chose Chris as one of the “Best Lawyers in Little Rock” in the field of Corporate Finance—Mergers and Acquisitions.

Since 2010, Chris has chaired the Data Security and Privacy Protection Group at Gill Ragon Owen, which advises clients in this emerging legal area by assessing their privacy strengths and weaknesses and assisting them in maintaining robust data security and data controls through proper employee policies, contract documentation, and negotiations with vendors, such as cloud computing providers, internet service providers, and other third-parties. Chris and the Privacy and Data Governance Group also provide data breach response advice to assist clients in fulfilling their data breach notification obligations. Chris is a member of the Defense Research Institute. He serves as Membership Chair of the DRI Cybersecurity Substantive Law Group and the Vice-Chair of the DRI Privacy Substantive Law Group.

Practice Areas:

  • Data Security and Privacy Protection
  • Corporate and Municipal Finance
  • Real Estate Development
  • Securities Regulation
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Class Actions

Publications:

Adam D. Reid

Adam D. Reid

The University of Iowa (B.A., 2004) UIC John Marshall Law School (J.D., 2008; LL.M., 2009)

Mr. Reid earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa and his J.D. and LL.M. in tax law at UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where he practiced law for a number of years before moving to Little Rock with his wife, Alexis, in 2011. They are the proud parents of a young daughter, Rebecca.

Over the past 10 years, Mr. Reid has developed a balanced tax, trusts and estates practice by providing counsel to individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. His practice includes advising clients on complex business transactions and tax issues, including mergers and acquisitions, financing, corporate governance, business succession, income tax, sales tax, employment tax, and tax dispute resolution. In addition, his practice includes a broad range of gift, trust and estate matters, including estate planning, asset protection, charitable planning, probate and trust administration.

Additionally, Adam advises Qualified Opportunity Fund managers, investors, businesses, and developers on the evolving tax and business structuring requirements of the Qualified Opportunity Zone program created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Mr. Reid has been recognized as a “Mid-South Rising Star” in tax law by Super Lawyers since 2014, and has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© list since 2017. He has also received Martindale Hubbell’s highest rating designation of “AV: Preeminent for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability”.

Practice Areas:

  • Taxation
  • Trusts & Estates
  • General Corporate and Commercial Law
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Corporate and Real Estate Finance
  • Nonprofits
  • Qualified Opportunity Zones

Questions Regarding Opportunity Arkansas?