August 28, 2013 Edition

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Campaign to benefit
economic development

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce has launched a new approach to funding economic development. The Lawrence County 100 calls upon supporters to take a special role in building the local economy.

"The idea is simple. We need 100 people who will give $100 a year to economic development," said Mike Montgomery, a former chamber board chair who is heading the campaign.

"This core of supporters can make the difference in bringing industry and economic growth to Lawrence County."

Montgomery said the chamber has opportunities to promote Lawrence County to prospective industries, but additional funds are needed to fuel the effort. He noted that early response to the group has been very positive.

"Our chamber has momentum and there are good things happening in Lawrence County. But to maintain the momentum we have to keep pressing ahead. LawCo 100 will make that possible," Montgomery said.

"We have crucial support from Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County that, coupled with our membership dues, covers our basic functions. The chamber is still short of the funds we need to push economic development," said Brett Cooper, current board chair.

Cooper noted that, unlike many communities in Northeast Arkansas and around the country, Lawrence County doesn't have a sales tax to fund its economic development, leaving the Chamber at a disadvantage to attract industries.

"Industrial recruitment is a fiercely competitive business. We have to remember that there are literally thousands of communities just like ours trying to lure the very same industries as we are," Cooper said.

"LawCo 100 is a good step toward keeping us more competitive."

LJ Bryant, the chamber's economic development director, said, "This is an opportunity for us to support ourselves. We have to help ourselves before we can ask others for help. The stakes are high and so are the costs."

The chamber office mailed letters to its membership this week seeking support for the Lawrence County 100, but membership in the Chamber is not required to participate. Those who wish to be a part of the group can send their $100 to the Lawrence County Chamber at P.O. Box 842, Walnut Ridge, AR 72476.

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