November 1, 2022-- Clock in, get coffee, play laser tag, and watch an alligator eat a frozen mouse. And someone else pays the tab.
That's the day the latest crop of Jonesboro newcomers had as they spent the day on the Jonesboro Unlimited (JU) Get To Know Jonesboro tour.
Get To Know Jonesboro was created in 2018 by Shelle Randall, JU's Director of Workforce Development and Existing Industry. Randall's vision was to round up industry leaders who recently relocated to Jonesboro and roll out the red carpet for them. Professionals from Post, Hytrol, Frito-Lay, Nestle, and Unilever took part in the tour the last week of October.
"We know it can be hard to make connections when you land in a new city," Randall said, "Get To Know Jonesboro is as simple as it sounds. We help them get to know their new community and meet some other people who, like them, just moved to Jonesboro too."
The day-long tour is all local and very active. Sitting and PowerPoint presentations are strictly taboo on this day. Randall and JU Director of Communications, Craig Rickert, plan a day of fun that exposes the group to things unique to Jonesboro.
"You really see them make a connection during the day. Whether they have been in Jonesboro for weeks or even months, they always say they learned something new and they can't wait to share it with their families," Rickert said.
This tour started their day with coffee from Shadrachs, a Jonesboro-based coffee roaster with six locations in Jonesboro. With a hot cup of joe still in their hands, the group got a real behind-the-scenes tour of the Arkansas State football facilities, including a surprise conversation with Head Coach Butch Jones.
After taking the field at Centennial Bank Stadium, it was time to bring out the crew's competitive side with some laser tag at Hijinx Family Fun Center. From there, lunch at Lost Pizza, where Joneboro's Director of Parks and Recreation, Danny Kapales, spoke to the group about our city's fantastic amenities.
From there, they got to see Craighead Forest Park for themselves before a short hike to Crowley's Ridge Nature Center, a favorite part of the day for all participants.
At the Nature Center, the group watched a film about the history of Jonesboro and Crowley's Ridge, the unique geographical formation where Jonesboro sits. The educational part of the day didn't end there. Our guests met a Screech Owl and the Nature Center's number one attraction, its four-foot-long alligator. On top of that, it was feeding time for the reptile. The cell phone cameras were rolling as the gator had its frozen rodent snack.
The day is about fun, but it's easily labeled as workforce development.
"We believe the sooner someone can connect with Jonesboro, the longer we can keep them," Randall said. "Taking just one day to help give our new friends and neighbors a little extra help getting acclimated to Jonesboro can make all the difference the next time a new career opportunity is placed in front of them."
"Jonesboro is growing. There's a chance to make an impact here," Rickert said. "We make sure our guests know that and I think it sinks in. Jonesboro is special. They walk away thinking about that."
JU hosts Get To Know Jonesboro three times a year. Once in the spring, once in the fall, and recently JU added an event for interns working at various Jonesboro companies while they are here for the summer.
"We love it. It's fun for us, too," Shelle Randall added. "If we can have that much fun and call it a day at the office, that's a good day."