July 27, 2011 Edition

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Bryant speaks to
Chamber members

Portia Mayor Jerry Sienknecht (left) visits with Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director L.J. Bryant at Thursday's quarterly Chamber meeting.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Gretchen Hunt

The message from Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director L.J. Bryant to Chamber members at Thursday's quarterly meeting was a pretty simple one - things could be a lot worse.

Bryant shared some county statistics with attendees showing that while Lawrence County has had its struggles, compared with many other counties, things are looking pretty good.

One such statistic was population.

"People always want to talk about growth, but there is something to be said for holding on to what you have," he said. "Lawrence County only showed a two percent loss in population in 10 years. Some counties had as much as 25 percent loss."

He also discussed unemployment rates and poverty rates, again showing the disparity between different parts of the state.

"Really, in Northeast Arkansas we are in pretty good shape compared to many counties in the state," he said.

Still, there is room for improvement and work to be done.

"Progress is slow, we all know that," he said. "The key is to create things that are sustainable."

He used the county's possible involvement in peanut production as an example.

"We have something they can't get somewhere else," he said. "You can give an industry everything they ask for in incentives, and three years later they can decide to move on down the road."

Bryant has also been visiting with existing factories and businesses, the quorum court, city councils and individuals.

"Half of being smart is knowing what you're dumb at," he said. "Right now I am just trying to find out everything I can about Lawrence County."

Bryant jokingly told those present that while his position is part-time he is available any time by e-mail or cell phone.

"Mayor (Don) House has been telling everyone I was hired for 20 hours a week and the other 20 hours are free."

Event benefits Children's Shelter

The quarterly meeting, hosted by associates of Walmart in Walnut Ridge, also served as a fund-raiser for The Children's Shelter in Walnut Ridge. The meal was provided by the Walmart employees with 100 percent of the $10 ticket price going to the shelter.

"The lunch raised nearly $500 for the shelter," Kathy Bradley, Chamber executive secretary, said. Walmart manager Kari Shanks, who is a member of the Chamber Board, also announced a $1,000 grant to be presented to the shelter.

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