January 28, 2015 Edition

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NEARIFA prepares for new year

Susan Johnson
Star Herald

In its first official meeting of the year, the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority's Jan. 22 session in the Randolph County Chamber Board Room centered on the successes of the previous year and a brighter future for the regional area.

Heading into its sixth year, the Intermodal Authority members were updated on the progress of Peco Foods, which is expected to bring over 1,100 jobs to the area, along with the potential for additional new businesses and expansion of existing businesses.

Intermodal Authority Director Wayne Gearhart said he had been invited to a luncheon in Corning recently where he was given an opportunity to tour the bin facility currently under construction. Gearhart described the facility as a near-perfection building.

Gearhart asked Corning Mayor Rob Young to give a report on the facility. Young said 40 bins were being installed in the 27-story building and they will begin contracting for grain in the facility in August.

Gearhart reported the work at the Pocahontas facility was also on schedule with a completion date of early 2016.

Newly-elected Pocahontas Mayor Kary Story attended the meeting and encouraged everyone to work together for the betterment of the area. Gearhart introduced the mayor. "It's a new year. We have new politics in place at both the state and local level. There's going to be change and we need to be accepting and adaptable to change."

In regard to membership, Gearhart reported Lawrence County and the City of Hoxie had elected not to continue their membership in the Intermodal Authority. The City of Hoxie had expressed it could not commit at this time due to the increase in membership from $1,000 to $10,000, a rate, which at present could not be included in its budget.

Gearhart said the increase in membership dues was necessary in order to apply for grants, which have to be matched. He also added that dues could be paid monthly, quarterly or annually. The City of Hoxie requested the option to come back if they could later down the road.

"We are also working with prospective new members," Gearhart said. "I believe 2014 has been a good year for us and I am confident our organization will come out fine. We are bringing jobs to the area and that was what we set out to do. We have helped bring over 1,000 jobs to our communities and we will continue down that track."

Board member Scott Trammel added that it was very important to stay regional and be heard. "It's important to realize the importance of the Intermodal."

In other business the Authority:

  • was updated by Randolph County Judge David Jansen that he had been successful in securing a turn lane near the Peco plant being constructed between Pocahontas and Walnut Ridge.

  • was informed the reorganization of the board (election of new members) will be held at the February meeting.

  • was given a financial report from Board Member Milton Smith who stated the Intermodal had fulfilled its commitment of $10,000 to PECO and reported the Authority currently had a bank balance of $35,607.80.

  • learned Black River Area Development is in the process of seeking funding for a low-income housing facility.

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