October 31, 2012 Edition

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NEARIFA discusses peanuts,
tentative plans for next year

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Several representatives from the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA) will meet with other intermodal members from around the state on Nov. 19 in Little Rock. Executive director Wayne Gearhart of Pocahontas told local members at their regular meeting on Oct. 25 that he expects that meeting to be a good networking opportunity.

He and fellow board member Don King attended a recent Hoxie City Council meeting, spoke to the group and gave them the intermodal's website address, which is neaintermodal.com.

"There seemed to be a lot of interest in what we are doing, and we need to get the website address out there for all our partners to use and share," Gearhart said. "The website is currently undergoing some changes and some additions to get it more personalized for our area, and we need to promote our site.

"Facebook and social media are available for us to use for updates and to share other information," he said.

Gearhart and King also attended the construction bond issue hearing concerning the new peanut processing plant.

Gearhart asked Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman to give the members an update on the peanut crops in the area. A representative from Cong. Rick Crawford's office has projected that peanut consumption will increase between three and four percent in the next year while the economy is slow.

"As of Friday, one-third of the acres local farmers had signed up have been harvested. Farmers had estimated around 3,200 pounds of peanuts per acre, but have reaped up to 5,000 pounds from some of their fields, and the grade is good despite a couple of rains after the peanuts were cut," Freeman said.

"The peanuts in North Carolina are better this year than they were last year however, so that may interfere with the price of our crops next year."

Freeman also shared with members that he had attended a highway department meeting in Jonesboro recently and learned that bids for the new Black River Bridge at Black Rock will be let on Nov. 28, and it is expected that it will take three years to complete the project.

Members of the intermodal authority are trying to meet with members of every group in the state that has an interest in economic development for this area. They are trying to leave no stone unturned to bring good jobs here.

"When we all work together we'll get the most accomplished," Freeman said. "We haven't had a new factory here in 40 years. We just have to work together to get things done."

Board member Milton Smith said, "I feel that for this organization to have any real success in the near future, we are going to have to take some calculated risks."

Gearhart told him that the plan is to zero in on a site and talk about taking risks after the first of the year.

"Seven entities coming together and working together is the best way to go to achieve our goals," he said. "I feel we will receive good news down the road."

Others agreed that they are on the right track and that they just need to be patient and stay the course.

The November and December meetings will be combined in a single meeting on Dec. 6 on the campus of Black River Technical School in Pocahontas, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

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