August 10, 2011 Edition

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AEDC visits LawCo.,
meets with NEARIFA

Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House (left) visits with Arkansas Economic Development Commission Chairman Tom Kirk of Paragould last Wednesday at the Wings of Honor Museum. AEDC Commissioners visited the museum during a tour of Lawrence County.

Gretchen Hunt

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission visited Lawrence County last Wednesday afternoon while in the area for a commission meeting.

While in Lawrence County, the commissioners were transported on Williams Baptist College's bus on a tour of the WBC campus, the Walnut Ridge Airport and Industrial Park, including a visit to the Wings of Honor Museum, and the proposed industrial site at Hoxie.

The tour ended in downtown Walnut Ridge, where commissioners learned about revitalization and tourism efforts in the downtown area and were treated to a reception at First National Bank.

During the tour, Chamber Economic Development Director L.J. Bryant told commissioners he has only been in the position a short time, but he has been impressed with how the leaders in the region are working together.

"There is a renewed energy and spirit among all the elected officials," Bryant said.

Wayne Gearhart of Pocahontas, chair of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA), agreed.

"The cooperative spirit in our organization is great," he said.

NEARIFA hosted the AEDC visit, which also included a public meeting on Thursday at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas.

During the meeting, AEDC Chairman Tom Kirk of Paragould said he was impressed with the number of people working on the authority's efforts. He said he had asked for a list of local officials who have been working with NEARIFA to create jobs.

"We have meetings all over the state, and that's the longest list of names I've seen," Kirk said.

Gearhart said he felt like the AEDC representatives had a productive time in their meetings at Pocahontas, as well as in their visit to area sites.

"I believe it was a wonderful opportunity for us in Northeast Arkansas and our seven partners in NEARIFA to highlight what we are trying to accomplish as far as economic development," he said. "I appreciate that the commission holds meetings in different parts of the state, and I appreciate them coming to our area."

Gearhart also thanked those who worked to prepare for the AEDC visit.

"I appreciate those who helped by sponsoring events and the committees that worked on the visit leading up to it and made it the success that I believe it was," he said.

Bryant also said he believes the visit was a success.

"The AEDC commissioners saw what we in Northeast Arkansas already knew - that we are unified in our efforts to create and retain jobs," he said. "They were impressed by our people and our resources."

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