August 11, 2010 Edition

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Gov. Mike Beebe visits WR

Gov. Mike Beebe visits last Wednesday with reporters at The Times Dispatch.
TD Photo ~ John Bland
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

"This area's greatest strength is its people," Governor Mike Beebe said in an interview at The Times Dispatch last Wednesday with reporters from The TD and the Pocahontas Star Herald. He was in Walnut Ridge to attend an evening fund-raiser in his honor.

"The people have strong ties to each other and to their towns. I grew up in Jackson County, so I'm familiar with these ties and hopes for the future of this area."

Another strength he spoke of is the transportation infrastructure in Northeast Arkansas, which he said is getting better and getting closer to reaching the Missouri state line.

"Interstate quality highways make us more attractive to potential businesses and industries that can bring new jobs to our citizens," Beebe said.

"This area's economy is dependent in a large part on agriculture, and we won't do anything to hamper its success," he added.

"Diversifying our jobs, and making sure the world knows this area can respond to major manufacturing companies will help us grow and thrive." "We have married our educational enterprise to our economy," said Beebe. " We have revamped our workforce for success."

He said that Arkansas has lost some jobs in today's economy, but has also added 25,000 better paying jobs, which is more than it lost.

Beebe said, "We have the schools, colleges and vocational education to train people for all professions, as well as for work in factories and plants and training for firemen and policemen. We need to stress education from the cradle to the grave."

"Diversification is essential," he said. "I'll fight to get jobs for Arkansas, and I will give every consideration to each town. But each area of Arkansas has to put its best foot forward to succeed."

Supercenters such as Intermodal Authorities working together are good for the area, Beebe said. Regions that work together make the entire area more attractive to industry and business.

He said the economy in Arkansas is good compared to that of other states. Arkansas is one of only four states in the nation not projected for a budget shortfall this year. The other states are Alaska, North Carolina and Montana.

Arkansas' 2010 fiscal year ended on July 1 with a more than $23 million surplus.

"We are not immune to this recession, the worst one in my lifetime, but we are doing really well," Beebe said. " Our per capita income has improved since 2006. We have moved from being the 48th state (lowest in income) to the 45th. We are passing the national average."

"Our figures reflect the best economy in the country. We haven't fired one teacher, and we are ranked 10th in the nation in education," he said.

He believes the anger directed at politicians in this recession is directed mostly toward Washington because of the federal government's deficit, the healthcare bill and overt partisanship.

"The beauty of this country is that people get to express their views during elections," he added.

The governor said the toughest part of his job is having to tell people "no" for really good programs because of the budget.

"We can't run a deficit budget like Washington," Beebe said. "We have to balance our budget.

"Arkansas taxpayer's are having to cut back and our state government has to do the same."

Earlier in the day, Gov. Beebe had made an appearance on Bloomberg Television to discuss the state's economy, which is shown via the Internet and can still be found on YouTube.

Beebe faces Republican challenger Jim Keets in November.

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