December 26, 2007 Edition

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Outgoing board member reflects
on years of service, future plans

Keith Brand
Guest Writer

As 2007 comes to a close I will end my six-year term on the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. I have been fortunate to serve on the board with many capable and knowledgeable people. Some board members have served prior terms on the board in the past and possess a wealth of knowledge and insight, which they have shared freely with other board members. I came on the board in 2001 and frankly had no idea what to expect or how the Chamber operated on a daily basis.

I soon realized that there are many daily chores and services provided by the Chamber office, which may not be visible to the citizens of the community. There are countless inquiries made from travelers and those seeking information about the services and businesses in the area as well as many types of general information.

Other Chamber functions are visible such as the annual Fall Festival, which requires a large amount of planning and work to make it a success.

It also became apparent that there are many inquiries made by outside companies and businesses interested in locating in Northeast Arkansas. These contacts are often made indirectly and discreetly by consulting firms as well as site location firms. It was during these contacts that I became aware of how fierce the competition is between communities and even states for substantial manufacturing companies to locate in one particular area or another.

It also became evident that the communities that were landing the new manufacturing and distribution plants had these things in common: an active and aggressive Chamber and Economic Development Commission, as well as positive relationships with the state and local governments. Another element, which these areas also possessed, is revenue generated by some form of economic development sales tax.

The actual tax amounts vary from area to area. In the communities where this is done the income generated is governed and disbursed as needed by an Economic Development Commission appointed by the elected officials within the city or county. These funds are used to attract new industry by a variety of ways such as providing sewer and water, roads, utility hookups and buildings. While any new taxes are historically unpopular, in many cases they are the difference in a community growing or diminishing.

The communities I am referring to are not distant but are areas such as Craighead, Jackson, Randolph, Greene and other east Arkansas counties and cities. While I am not advocating or opposing a new tax, I am encouraging everyone in the area to have an open mind should this issue ever arise in the future for our communities.

This seems to be the trend for those who have been successful in attracting new businesses, as well as developing existing businesses, with a desire to expand and create additional jobs. I have been fortunate enough to have been born and raised in this community and to have been able to stay here and work and raise my own children. It is my sincere hope that there will be employment opportunities for all of our children and citizens in this area in the years to come.

Lawrence County has had many progressive leaders in the past who have worked diligently to develop the area and create opportunities for employment and economic growth. We have the resources and infrastructure available to do anything we want. All we as a community must do is learn to market our area and be willing do whatever it takes to attract businesses and individuals to come here and work and raise their families. I truly believe this is a great place to live.

There is always room for improvement, but through dedication and a desire to make our area develop, we can continue to keep Lawrence County and all of its communities a great place to live.

In closing I want to sincerely thank those who allowed me to be part of the Chamber Board, and I have every desire and intent to remain active and do all I can to contribute if I am asked. I encourage all the citizens of this area to be supportive of the various organizations in the county, that are trying to make our area prosper.

(This is the final column in a series of columns written by members of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.)

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