December 06, 2006 Edition

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Sen. Wooldridge encourages
public service, regionalism


State Senator Tim Wooldridge (left) of Paragould challenged Chamber members to pursue public service. Viola Meadows greets him following the meeting.
John Bland
TD Publisher

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting at noon Dec. 1 at the Walnut Ridge Country Club. The meeting included presentation of awards, announcement of retiring and new board members, a recap of chamber activities and goals, a report on job trends and the featured speaker, State Senator Tim Wooldridge of Paragould.

Clay Sloan, chairman-elect, served as master of ceremonies and announced the top 2006 Chamber award recipients. They are:

Glenna Mosier and Danny West were recognized as retired Chamber board members. Keith Brand has served as the Chamber's 2006 chairman.

Newly elected board members are Mike Montgomery of Goin' Postal and Gretchen Hunt, editor of The Times Dispatch.

Sloan shared highlights of Chamber activities and goals with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. "We (the Chamber) are members of the business community trying to make life better for everyone," Sloan said.

He noted some long-term goals of the Chamber are: the establishment of a regional airport, the expansion of U.S. Hwy. 67 to four lanes from Newport to Missouri and Breakthrough Solutions, a Cooperative Extension Service program with other counties to pursue economic development.

Ted Moskal, Chamber executive director, talked about trends in job creation. He noted in his presentation that most new jobs are being created through very small businesses. "Manufacturing is not where the job opportunities are," he added.

Moskal explained that manufacturing jobs once migrated from the northeast section of the U.S. to the southern states, where labor and costs were cheaper. Now, these same jobs have been out-sourced to other countries, such as Mexico and China, where costs are much cheaper.

Compared to average manufacturing labor costs in the U.S., the labor costs in China are only 2 percent of U.S. costs, while Mexico is 23 percent and Japan is 68 percent.

"We must provide attractive communities for people to come to," Moskal said, adding that we must build on community assets, such as parks and other attractions.

Working together as a region in collaboration not competition with neighboring counties in Northeast Arkansas is the way to grow, he added.

State Senator Tim Wooldridge of Paragould reinforced Moskal's presentation. "I am a huge proponent for more knowledge-based jobs, many of which will come from small businesses," Wooldridge said.

"We had better be teaching Chinese in our schools," he said, noting China's dominance in manufacturing.

"You have so many wonderful attributes in your area," Wooldridge said, as he stressed the need to think as a region.

At the end of this year, Wooldridge will complete his term as state senator and complete 22 years of public life and service. This year, he ran unsuccessfully for the office of lieutenant governor of Arkansas.

In closing, Wooldridge issued a call for public service, which he still considers an honorable pursuit. "I want to challenge you to think of something bigger than yourself."

Museum benefit

In other meeting business, Sue Gibson, board member of the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum, invited everyone to attend and support a holiday party to benefit the museum. The event, which includes hors d'oeuvres, an auction and dance, will be held Saturday night from 6 to 10 at the Gateway Theatre.

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