August 28, 2013 Edition

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John Holt (from left) and Stanley Schmidt, both of Hoxie, and Deb Ball of Randolph County were among board members attending the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Facilities Authority meeting at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas on Aug. 22.

NEARIFA hopeful for future success

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Members of the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Facilities Authority discussed membership dues for next year and affirmed their commitment to bringing jobs to Northeast Arkansas at their meeting on August 29.

Executive Director Wayne Gearhart reminded attendees that NEARIFA partners will soon be going over their budgets and the organization needs to decide what membership dues for next year should be.

"We need to figure out what amount will work for our partners and for us," Gearhart said. He asked for volunteers willing to work on the committee.

Deb Ball, Milton Smith, Don King and C.L. Clark agreed to serve as committee members and will make a monetary recommendation at next month's meeting.

Membership fees were lowered from $11,000 to $1,000 last year in response to bad economic conditions.

State and county officials and other members gave updates on ongoing projects in their areas, along with Black River Technical College President Dr. Wayne Hatcher.

Hatcher said that 72 percent of BRTC students who receive their associate's degrees go on to complete their bachelor's degrees. "That's up from 27 percent in the past," he said.

He added that the decrease in Pell Grant funding has cost the college 100 students this year.

Don King of Hoxie noted that Lawrence, Randolph and Clay counties have lost not hundreds but thousands of jobs over recent years. "I believe the Intermodal is on the right track to bring jobs back," he said.

Board Chairman Scott Trammell commended Gearhart on his dedication and fairness to all members of NEARIFA.

"He is working hard on behalf of everyone with a non-biased attitude," Trammell said.

Treasurer Milton Smith added, "He has bent over backwards to be fair to all partner members in the effort to bring in new jobs. His political leadership has helped us be where we are now."

Gearhart said the group's focus is still the same as it was when they began four years ago, bringing jobs to this area.

"If we stay focused, we can bring back jobs," Gearhart said. "Everyone has stayed the course, and I would like to thank them for their service and the time they have given."

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