November 26, 2014 Edition

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State Rep. Joe Jett sees
much potential in WR airport

Walnut Ridge banker Bill Wilcoxson (left) visits with State Rep. Joe Jett of Success, who spoke at Thursday night's annual Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce banquet.

John Bland

State Rep. Joe Jett of Success, speaker at this year's Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet, had positive things to say in his address Thursday night and focused on the asset that is the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.

"The Walnut Ridge Airport is a gold mine," Jett said. He noted that the infrastructure is there, the leadership is in place and approaches are in place. "I can see the Walnut Ridge Airport being the Northeast Arkansas Regional Airport," he said, comparing the potential to that of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

"I take my hat off to what the Walnut Ridge Airport has done and is trying to do," he added.

Jett has chaired the Arkansas State Aeronautical Commission, is a former member of the Corning Airport Commission and a founding member and co-chair of the Aerospace Legislative Caucus. He is entering his second term in the Arkansas House of Representatives and represents District 56, which includes Clay County and portions of Greene, Randolph and Lawrence counties.

Rep. Jett also had praise for the revitalization efforts the Chamber has spearheaded this year. "With a lot of small towns drying up, it's refreshing to see people who love the community where they live," he said. The banquet was held in the recently-opened special events center, The Studio, on West Main Street in Walnut Ridge.

"Putting the Pieces Together" was the theme for the banquet, and revitalization was a recurring word as Chamber Board Chair Fran Cavenaugh highlighted efforts during the year to revitalize and beautify Lawrence County.

Chamber presents top awards

Numerous awards were given during the evening.

  • This year's Industry of the Year award went to M.E.B. Trailer Manufacturing, Inc. Ron and Keri Ingram accepted the award.

    The family-owned business was started in Bono in 1989 and was moved to Walnut Ridge in 1994. M.E.B. has eight employees and has 34 different distributors across the United States. The company manufactures trailers from 4 x 8 feet in size up to a 24-foot gooseneck trailer, made in the USA.

    "The company was a main stage sponsor for Beatles at the Ridge Festival and is very supportive of Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County," said Dr. Brett Cooper, who made the presentation.

  • Vincent and Jennifer Wright of Strawberry were recognized as the 2014 Lawrence County Farm Family of the Year. Vincent's son, Spencer, farms with his father, as well as having an independent operation.

  • Barton's of Walnut Ridge, a part of E.C. Barton & Company, was named Business of the Year. Mike Wooldridge, manager of Barton's of Walnut Ridge, accepted the award, which was presented by Fran Cavenaugh.

    The company began in 1885 at a grocery store in Jonesboro and was incorporated in 1902. The company has experienced significant growth over the years and made several other acquisitions. The company expanded rapidly during 2006 with the acquisition of Grossman's Bargain Outlet. The acquisition included 56 locations in four states, effectively doubling the size of the company.

    Barton's has operations from upstate New York to southwest Texas and is still headquartered in Jonesboro. The company continues to be a dynamic, growing regional building and materials company.

  • Dina Rose of Walnut Ridge is this year's Community Service Award recipient. A mother of three children, she worked hard to receive both an undergraduate and master's degree.

    "This year's Community Service Award goes to someone who was always a tomboy at heart and wanted to play football but settled for punt, pass, and kick competition as well as softball, volleyball and swimming.

    She was a cheerleader, lifeguard and played volleyball, not only in high school but also in college," said Cavenaugh in making the presentation.

    "This person is someone you would always want on your side, and she is a loyal and caring friend to many. She always rooted for the underdog and those less fortunate, sharing with and giving to them. She's a hard worker with an old-style dedication and work ethic," she added.

  • Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale was named the Woman of the Year. She was elected to the Black Rock City Council in 2006 and became mayor in 2010. She will begin her second term as mayor next year. Since becoming active on the city council, she was instrumental in getting the Dollar General Store in her city.

    Since she has been mayor, a grocery store, gas station, auto repair facility and medical clinic have been added to the city. A law firm and industry have also expanded. Equipment for the street and water departments has been upgraded.

    "She believes in recycling the old, repairing what you can and selling what is not needed," Cavenaugh said. "Her favorite saying is 'Right is Right, Wrong is Wrong.' She's is bighearted and loves their little town and gives it all she's got."

  • The award for Agriculture Business of the Year went to Perry Manus Welding.

    The business covers multiple types of metal and steel fabrication and repairs but "specializes" in helping out farmers. "They take pride in knowing that what they send into the field will get the job done – whether that be repairs or any of their specialty-made farm equipment such as the Bin Buddy or the Terra-Track," said presenter Brett Cooper.

    Manus Welding also offers top of the line storm shelters, power unit-driven relift pumps, portable hydraulic units, duck blinds and pits, custom BBQ grills-smokers, special machine trailers, custom signs and too much more to mention.

    "This company is a shining example of civic responsibility and philanthropy. Through the years, they have helped raise thousands of dollars for The Children's Shelter, high school scholarships and other local charities and needs, as well as given of their time and resources to non-profit and civic organizations," Cooper said.

  • John Bland, publisher of The Times Dispatch, was named the 2014 Man of the Year. "He has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in running a business that in and of itself is a great service to our county, but on top of that, he is a faithful member of Walnut Ridge United Methodist Church, active in the local Kiwanis Club, is a former chair of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and served two terms on the Lawrence County School District's School Board," said Cooper.

    "He also serves on the Board of Directors for First National Bank ... He has served as president of the Arkansas Press Association Foundation Board and is a current member of the Arkansas Press Association's Board of Directors. He is married to the former Renee Rainwater and in recent years has possibly become best known as 'Anna's Dad,' a role that he would probably say is the most important."

  • Jack and Mary Jo Wolf, current owners of The Flower Basket, were recognized on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the business.

  • Vickie Mitchell and Brett Cooper were each honored for their completion of two terms on the Chamber's board of directors.

  • Caleb Wall and John Thomison were announced as the two new members named to the board of the Chamber of Commerce.

  • Revitalization certificates were presented to numerous business owners for the physical improvements they have made to their buildings during the year.

  • Fran Cavenaugh announced that she would be serving another year as board chair.

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