February 01, 2012 Edition

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NEARIFA maintains
focus on long-term goal

Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director L.J. Bryant talks with State Rep. Linda Collins Smith of Pocahontas and Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority Chairman Scott Trammel at Thursday's Intermodal Authority meeting in Walnut Ridge.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt

While short-term projects are sometimes successful and sometimes fall by the wayside, the long-term goal of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority remains to maintain a regional concept to recruit industry to the area.

The authority affirmed its commitment to work together by continuing its monthly meetings, as well as having committees meet, as needed, to handle specific needs.

One committee that will be formed soon is a Community Awareness Committee to work with civic organizations, as well as media, to help keep the public informed about the authority's efforts.

"I am proud to be a part of this organization," Intermodal Executive Director Wayne Gearhart said. "I am constantly hearing the comment that this board is the best working board to be around."

Pocahontas Mayor Frank Biggers shared with the board things that are happening in his community and emphasized the importance of the authority's work.

"We are all tied together," he said. "Whether it be through flooding or our desire to see Highway 67 completed or our need for economic growth, we are all tied together."

The authority's engineer, Jerry Kelso with Crafton Tull, said there have been some meetings with prospects, though confidentiality agreements prevented him from saying more.

"There has been some movement," he said. "We are also looking at new grant opportunities."

A brief update on the proposed Hoxie site was shared. Gearhart said the authority is currently attempting to set up a meeting with landowners and lawyers to try to obtain options on the land.

Members of the authority also recently met with Gov. Mike Beebee and Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett.

Trammel said while no promises have been made, "there does seem to be a change in the wind" regarding completing Highway 67 north to the Missouri line.

The AHTD has held fast to plans to upgrade the highway to interstate specifications, even though it would mean a much longer timeframe to complete the project.

"For the first time there is some consideration being given to a divided four-lane, as long as the right of way is there to upgrade to interstate quality later," Trammel said.

At this time there is still nothing set regarding what route the highway would take.

During Thursday's meeting, the board also voted for Nick Mannatt of Clay County to fill the position of vice-chair, and to keep the remaining officers in their current positions. They are: Trammel, chairman; Dalton Sullivan, secretary; Milton Smith, treasurer; and Don King, at-large member of the executive committee.

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