March 7, 2012 Edition

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New company shows
interest in Hoxie site

Dalton Sullivan
Star Herald

While the prolonged courtship of Integrated Renewable Resources (IRR) by the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA) for the Hoxie site remains on the back burner, work continues on the other sites and continues to move forward.

At the monthly meeting of the NEARIFA on Feb. 23 in Pocahontas, Executive Director Wayne Gearhart reported there was nothing new with IRR as to their viability, but in the meantime, another prospect has contacted NEARIFA and inquired about land availability at the Hoxie site.

Gearhart said they have had several discussions with the firm and have signed a "confidentiality" agreement with one company, which he termed, "very exciting." The confidentiality agreement simply means a company has interest in the property, or parts of it, and is asking all parties to not make any public comment about it.

The Hoxie site in particular is extremely attractive to potential businesses because of its close proximity to both the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads. In addition, in working with IRR the past two years, much of the prep work has already been completed, which would be attractive to other companies, because it cuts down their lead time to plan a facility.

Gearhart reported to the full board that he had met with all of the landowners who own property at the Hoxie site and talked about the land options the attorneys for NEARIFA drew up and sent to the landowners. He said he met with each family individually to answer any questions they might have. "They had valid questions," Gearhart said, "but we don't need to be in a hurry about this, we want to do this right."

Board Chair Scott Trammel reported on the latest developments with the peanut industry in the region. Two weeks earlier the city of Pocahontas agreed to give Kyle and Jeremy Baltz 25 acres of land that is located in the Pocahontas Intermodal site. The Baltz brothers, in conjunction with the Clint Williams Company, plan to build a peanut buying and drying station on the land.

Trammel said he plans to contact the pair and offer them access to the engineering studies NEARIFA has already had done on the property, to see if there is anything that might be of benefit to them.

Gearhart applauded the work done by the NEARIFA Community Awareness Committee setting up schedules for visiting the different cities and counties that make up the NEARIFA, in an effort to further educate lawmakers and the general public on the work done by the NEARIFA. The committee is also working on a website and a mission statement.

The board also heard a report from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission regarding the Site Selection Center, a partnership between AEDC and Entergy. This is one of the prime ways to get information available to potential site selection committees.

Corning Mayor Dewayne Phelan also gave a report on improvements that are being made at the Corning site and the interest being shown in the properties.

Mayor Phelan said he also likes what he has been hearing about Hwy. 67 from Little Rock. He and other mayors from Pocahontas, Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, as well as Missouri officials have been lobbying the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) officials encouraging them to build a highway between Pocahontas and the Missouri state line that is not built to interstate standards, which they feel is too costly.

Following the meeting Mayor Phelan, Gearhart and other NEARIFA officials traveled to Corning to tour the Intermodal sites at Corning.

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