February 1, 2017 Edition

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Derrick Harris (from right), new executive director of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority, visits with Corbet Clark, a Walnut Ridge representative, and Lloyd Clark, a Lawrence County representative, following a NEARIFA board meeting on Thursday.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Harris hits ground running
as Intermodal director

Gretchen Hunt

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority made the hiring of new executive director Derrick Harris official at its meeting on Thursday.

Following a short executive session, a formal job offer was presented with a salary of $40,000, a health insurance benefit and a $5,000 expense account.

The board, which is chaired by Nick Manatt of Corning, approved the salary package.

Harris reported that he had spent the previous two weeks meeting with as many of the stakeholders on the board as he could get scheduled.

"I really wanted to get an idea of what the stakeholders' vision is," he said.

He noted that seeking out economic development opportunities, increasing the number of stakeholders in the authority and getting property listed on Site Select were among priorities that surfaced in conversations.

Among his immediate plans are to reach out to other counties and cities to find others interested in becoming a part of the authority or rejoining if they were members in the past.

"He has hit the ground running," Manatt said, turning to address Harris and saying, "No one is any happier to see you here than me."

During the meeting, the board made several decisions regarding having Harris be a part of different economic development groups and opportunities being offered.

The board voted to renew its membership with the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation, and Harris said he will attend the meetings. They also discussed an upcoming workshop being hosted by the Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives organization on Feb. 9, as well as an economic development training program offered by Entergy. Grants are available to help pay for the Entergy program, and the board voted to apply for a grant for Harris to attend.

Snapp opens spot
for Judge Thomison

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp, who was appointed to a Lawrence County position on the board, stepped down from that position at Thursday's meeting.

Snapp, who will still attend meetings as a funding partner to the board as mayor of Walnut Ridge, said he was resigning to give new County Judge John Thomison the opportunity to fill the seat and provide a broader representative base for all of Lawrence County.

"The judge didn't know I was going to do this," Snapp said. "I just told him as we walked in the room."

The city and the county each have three seats on the board. Current Walnut Ridge representatives are Jon Walter, Milton Smith and Corbet Clark, who is a new appointment in 2017. Other county representatives are Lloyd Clark of Powhatan and David Coker of Walnut Ridge.

At the end of the meeting, Clark addressed the board about the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives at Powhatan. The facility is not fully staffed at this time and funding that was designated to staff it has been frozen. He asked for support from the board. Harris said he would draft a letter to be put before the board at the next meeting.

Harris closed the meeting, stating he is excited to be in the position and excited about the future.

"I want to thank everyone who took time to meet with me," he said. "I look forward to working with everyone."

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