October 5, 2011 EditionAlso in this issue...
Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman (left) and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director L.J. Bryant discuss economic development issues at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority meeting on Thursday.
Star Herald Photo ~ Dalton Sullvian
First District Congressman Rick Crawford was the special guest this past week at the regular monthly meeting of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA).
At the meeting, which was held on Thursday morning on the campus of Black River Technical College in Pocahontas, Crawford said he had been watching the progress of the NEARIFA, and was pleased to see the cooperation of the different city and county entities working together.
"What is happening with the Intermodal Authority is a great opportunity," Cong. Crawford said. "Seeing so much new activity, there is a real shift in thinking. The thinking is no longer, 'this is the way we used to do things.' What you are doing and accomplishing is a real testament to teamwork."
Crawford said all across Arkansas there has been a real shift in funds to Intermodal projects. "This will grow the economy in Northeast Arkansas," Crawford said, "and will put transportation in Northeast Arkansas on the map."
Crawford pledged his support to the NEARIFA to do what he could as they move forward with their projects. He said he had met with Sen. John Boozman and Sen. Mark Pryor and the three of them are united in support for the NEARIFA.
In other business, NEARIFA Executive Director Wayne Gearhart said he was still receiving positive comments and feedback from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) meeting in early August, which was hosted by the NEARIFA. Gearhart said members of the commission were impressed with the organization of the authority and with the sites they had opportunity to visit.
Gearhart said he did not anticipate any change in direction of the AEDC following the death last month of Director Maria Haley.
Gearhart also discussed his meeting with Gov. Mike Beebe in early September at an economic development meeting in Little Rock. Gearhart said, "The governor once again emphasized regionalism and saluted what we are trying to do in Northeast Arkansas."
Jerry Kelso, an engineer with NEARIFA's engineering firm, Crafton Tull, gave an update on how things are progressing with Integrated Renewable Resources (IRR), the company that would like to locate a railroad tie manufacturing facility in Hoxie, near the intersection of the Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads.
Kelso said planning for the project is moving forward, "a lot slower than we would like," but still moving forward as they finalize costs. He also said they were working on several other grant applications.
Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House introduced two individuals who were also looking at putting a facility at the Hoxie site. For confidentiality sake, the nature of the business was not disclosed, as talks with Crafton Tull and the NEARIFA Executive Committee are in the very preliminary stage.
Gearhart also announced the board had received two resignations. Board Chairman Matt Woolard of Corning resigned for personal reasons, and Barry Sellers, also of Corning, resigned for health reasons. Corning Mayor Dewayne Phelan will be responsible for replacing Woolard and Sellers.
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