Published Thursday, February 02, 2006
By Eric Wearne
After losing several large employers over the course of the 1990s and realizing that their schools were not preparing their students to compete in the global economy, the citizens of Osceola, Arkansas decided to do something to stop their community’s decline. According to the Wall Street Journal, “This small city of about 9,000, set amid soybean and cotton fields on the west bank of the Mississippi…persuaded Denso Corp., an affiliate of Toyota Motor Corp., to locate a new plant in town producing car air-conditioning and heating systems. The usual bevy of financial incentives helped, but for Denso, there was a clinching factor: Osceola’s efforts to improve local education by creating a charter school.”
“The charter school opened in the summer of 2002 as the Academic Center of Excellence. Its student body is roughly half white and half African-American. In the 2003-2004 school year, 41% of sixth graders were proficient in reading and 54% were proficient in math. Both scores were near or above state average, a big improvement over city schools’ previous performance.”
“Denso came knocking on Osceola’s door that year as part of a survey of potential locations in the South. It was combing more than two dozen sites in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas…In July 2003, Denso agreed to build its new factory in Osceola and it began hiring the following year. Of the 380 employees at the plant, an overwhelming majority come from Osceola or the surrounding area.”
Read “As Detroit Slashes Car Jobs, Southern Towns Pick Up Slack” here.