October 09, 2013 Edition

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We believe in LawCo.

L.J. Bryant
Guest Writer

When people spend money they expect a return on their investment. So, why are people investing in Lawrence County?

If you drive around the county you will see a lot of activity. In Walnut Ridge, a new McDonald's is near completion and a new hotel has just opened downtown. A brand new event center is located beneath the new hotel. In the last year, we have seen a new coffee shop, yogurt place and family buffet open.

Clover Bend is home to a new multimillion dollar hunting lodge and event center. This is all on top of two recent major tourist attractions being unveiled. All of this development means jobs, not only in direct employment by these new businesses, but also by the dollars spent by those businesses in construction and later in their daily business.

The hospital has announced plans to add an assisted living facility. Community Healthcare just opened a new clinic. Our schools in Walnut Ridge, Hoxie and Imboden all have new additions to their campuses. Williams just opened a new dorm and is about to launch an online learning program. The NorthRidge subdivision behind Pizza Hut is expanding with more lots. The Chamber worked hard alongside Judge Freeman, Mayor House, Rep. Ratliff, and Sen. Thompson to help Birdsong Peanuts locate in Portia.

Why should you invest in the chamber? The chamber does obvious things like ribbon cuttings and festivals. But way beyond that, the chamber represents our area in the NEA Economic Development Coalition and the NEA Intermodal Authority.

We are in a global competition for jobs. Sometimes the jobs will not always land on your street. Sometimes it is the county over. Our community is the only community in our area without an economic development tax; so, we have to work with very limited resources. We have around $25,000 to do economic development while neighboring communities have as much as a million dollars.

We make in-person visits frequently to our members and especially our industrial members. Often, they have a problem that we are able to help with through our contacts.

As you cross the river you will see the state spending tens of millions of dollars building a new bridge; along with millions more to complete divided Highway 67 to Walnut Ridge. Additionally, the state has continued to invest in rails to trails making a six-mile walking track from Hoxie to the airport.

Former Chamber President Mike Montgomery refers to our economic development strategy as one of economic gardening. We are using the limited resources we have to add a job here and a job there while working regionally to attract major employers that may or may not land in our county but provide work for all citizens of NEA.

We can all think of the classic questions kids ask in the car on a trip "are we there yet?" We are not. Economic development is a journey not a destination. Take the journey with us. We have been working with one of our major prospects for over two years. Many of the things you do not see that the chamber does can literally take years.

In one column, I cannot list all the things happening all over the county. This is only a primer. For the full book, come join the chamber.

Either we are all investing because we are crazy or because we believe. We believe in a brighter future for our county.

(L.J. Bryant is the economic development director for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.)

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