October 25, 2017 Edition

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NEARIFA to receive
funding from AHTD

Gretchen Hunt

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority met Thursday in Pocahontas, following a several-month hiatus after a new director was hired, and soon after resigned.

Board Chair Scott Trammell told attendees he had put off the meeting several times waiting to hear from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department regarding some potential funding for the authority.

He presented those in attendance with a copy of a letter from the Arkansas Highway Commission regarding Act 705 of 2017, which designates the distribution of highway revenue interest income. The act calls for $525,000 to be equally distributed to each Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority in the state.

NEARIFA would receive its portion of the funds as a lump sum each year. Board members voted to enter into an agreement of understanding to accept the funds for use as the authority moves forward. The amount received will depend on how many authorities qualify for funding.

Also during the meeting, the importance of working together as a region was emphasized.

Virginia Porta, senior planning engineer with the AHTD said, "When you can come together as a region with a single voice it lends credibility and strength to whatever you are trying to accomplish."

Kevin Sexton, senior community developer with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, shared information about PREP (Prospect Readiness Education Program), which helps communities and regions be competitive.

He said the program focuses on sites and buildings, local economic development organizations, local funding and workforce narrative. He encouraged members of the authority to visit with other intermodal authorities, as well as to come to the AEDC offices in Little Rock to present information about the region.

He talked about factors that help a company decide where to locate, including incentives, cost of living, available workforce and access to highways. He said the bottom line for a company is going to be its ability to succeed.

"A company will locate in an area where they can be profitable," Sexton said. "The rest is icing."

Steve Jones, building and sites coordinator with AEDC, noted that the Site Selection website that is used to post available properties had removed some of the restrictions, which will allow the posting of smaller buildings that are available in the region.

Board members discussed the need to have either a director or an assistant in place as soon as possible for the authority to be able to move forward. An executive committee meeting was set for later this month, and another full meeting will be scheduled following that meeting.

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