March 02, 2011 Edition

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Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Facilities Authority board members John Allen (from left) and Stanley Schmidt, both of Hoxie, and John Thomison of Smithville (right) discuss future plans with Intermodal Director Wayne Gearhart of Pocahontas following Thursday's meeting at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas.
TD Photo ~ Gloria Wilkerson

NEARIFA elects officers,
discusses future endeavors

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facility Authority elected officers for 2011 and discussed plans for bringing new jobs to this area by recruiting industries and businesses at its monthly meeting.

Officers currently serving on the board of directors were reelected to serve another year at the authority's meeting in Pocahontas on Thursday. Matt Woolard will serve as board chairman; Scott Trammel is vice-chairman, secretary is Dalton Sullivan, and Milton Smith is treasurer. Jeriel Summit was selected to fill former board member Wayne Gearhart's seat. Gearhart currently serves as director of the NEARIFA.

Jerry Kelso, engineer with Crafton Tull, told the board that more progress has been made on the Walnut Ridge/Hoxie site where Integrated Renewable Resources, LLC hopes to build a railroad tie and pellet factory.

"We met with representatives from the Union Pacific Railroad on Feb. 16 and feel confident they and Burlington Northern Santa Fe will allow us to add a spur onto their lines," Kelso said. "It's just a matter of waiting for written confirmation from the two railroads before things go forward.

"Once we receive that, we will visit more with the property owners of the selected site and begin looking at land purchase."

Railroad access is crucial to the plant locating here.

Gearhart told the board the authority has other sites and projects they are working on in Corning, Pocahontas and one near the Walnut Ridge Airport.

"We have not forgotten the other sites; our main focus is on jobs for the areas we represent," he said. "The proposed plant at Walnut Ridge and Hoxie is taking a lot of our attention right now."

He added that the authority is continuing to look at other funding sources, and that the authority needs to have some infrastructure in place in order to attract companies and industries.

People across the country are paying attention to what the authority in this area is trying to accomplish, according to Cliff McKinney with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. McKinney said he gave a presentation to 1,500 state employees in Charlotte, N.C., two weeks ago about the work being done here.

"We want to do all we can to help areas promote industry," he said. "People from as far away as Washington, D.C., are interested in what we are doing here."

Several individuals from Corning and Clay County will be in Washington this week to meet with members of the Congressional delegations from both Arkansas and Missouri. Other authority members were invited to join the group. They plan to be there for two days to discuss economic issues, as well as Highway 67 progress and the NEARIFA.

Representatives from the Clint Williams Company, a division of Texoma Peanut Company, attended the meeting and spoke to board members.

They are looking to continue their expansion to keep up with today's market for peanuts. The company has been in business for 50 years, and they sell their products in over 36 countries around the world. The company is willing to commit to leasing a facility for storing peanuts grown in this area.

"We want to help the farmers in Northeast Arkansas," they said. "If farmers raise peanuts here, we want to buy them."

They added that they are not asking the authority for anything right now, but will be in the near future. They are looking to build a warehouse and processing facility somewhere in Northeast Arkansas

Gearhart told them that the authority is 100 percent in favor of jobs they will be bringing here.

In other business, board members:

  • passed a motion to have the NEARIFA attorneys draw up a letter of commitment between them and IRR; voted to allow Gearhart to contact the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to get their permission to allow a small amount of GIF grant funds received to be used on options for land purchase; approved a motion to have the attorneys draw up a legal instrument asking for options with landowners and the authority.

  • were informed that each entity member is required to define the length of its three members' terms on the board, and that the terms be staggered in two, four and six year terms. This is called for in the authority's bylaws and must be done to be in compliance.

  • learned that Walnut Ridge, Hoxie and Lawrence County need to turn in their resolution letters agreeing to support the authority, again to be in compliance.

  • heard from board treasurer Milton Smith that they have a balance of $174,528.96 in the bank.

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