March 28, 2012 Edition

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NEARIFA looking
at grant possibilities

Dalton Sullivan
Star Herald

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA) heard reports this past week on federal grant possibilities that may be forthcoming this summer.

At the board's regular monthly meeting on Thursday held at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas, the board heard from BRTC 's vice-president for development, Dr. Jan Ziegler, who has extensive experience in grant writing and applying for grants.

Ziegler said it appears there are several grant opportunities through the federally-funded Delta Regional Authority that NEARIFA might want to look into.

Engineer Jerry Kelso of Crafton Tull also spoke about the grants, confirming the information given to the board by Ziegler. Kelso said Crafton Tull, the NEARIFA engineering firm, has already started the application process for the grants. Both Ziegler and Kelso said they would keep the NEARIFA Board updated on grant possibilities as they arise.

NEARIFA Executive Director Wayne Gearhart reported on a visit he and board president Scott Trammell made recently to the Corning site. They were accompanied by Corning Mayor Dwayne Phelan, Kelso and a representative from The group surveyed the site, which encompasses approximately 1,000 acres. The Corning site has a few structures on it, as well as a rail spur.

"There are a lot of possibilities with this site," Gearhart said. "One of the many pluses is the city of Corning has options on the entire site, which makes it different from the Hoxie site, plus they already have a Union Pacific spur into the property, which would make it very attractive to anyone who might be looking to relocate or build in the area."

Gearhart also said things are continuing to move forward on the Hoxie site. Despite some setbacks on that site over the past six months, Gearhart felt some positive things could happen there, and that the area is continuing to draw interest.

The Pocahontas site will be getting a tenant later this year. Baltz Feed plans on breaking ground soon on a peanut drying facility that will originally encompass 25 acres, and could expand to as many as 50 acres.

Kyle Baltz with Baltz Feed spoke to the Authority board about the project and their partnership with the Clint Williams Co. to promote peanuts in this area. Baltz said they have also purchased a warehouse across from the proposed drying facility that will be used to store the peanuts until they are shipped to Oklahoma.

Gearhart reported on a meeting he and Trammell had with Kirkley Thomas of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative regarding economic development. Gearhart said the meeting was similar to previous meetings they have had with Entergy.

The board approved having Spring Designs of Pocahontas develop a website for the Authority. According to Spring Designs the website should be up and running in 30-45 days.

"Having a website is a must," Gearhart said. "So many companies look to the Internet first, and we need to have a presence. It is just another tool for us to get the word out about NEARIFA."

The next NEARIFA meeting will take place on Thursday, April 26, in Hoxie.

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