A Thousand Lost Jobs Fuel Creation Of Economic Development Engine

May 23, 2018

Texarkana, USA- Governors from both sides of the state line will converge in downtown Texarkana on Thursday, May 31 at 3 p.m. to announce the creation of the AR-TX Regional Economic Development Incorporation (AR-TX REDI)—an organization formed to serve as a catalyst for regional growth and a strengthened economy for southwest Arkansas and northeast Texas. The public is invited to attend the announcement ceremony held on the steps of the United States Post Office and Courthouse.

The historical joint appearance by Governor Greg Abbott (TX) and Governor Asa Hutchinson (AR) will be the headliner for the launch of AR-TX REDI, a new nonprofit organization that aims to create jobs and expand the regional economic base by attracting new businesses and industries. AR-TX REDI was created to promote the value of the area’s unique resources along the regional interstate corridors in Bowie (TX) and Miller (AR) Counties. Currently, the area has 106 miles of interstate frontage along the corridors of I-30, I-49, and future I-69 (currently called I-369).

“Texarkana USA is the anchor of converging interstate corridors rich with opportunity and resources,” said Sonja Hubbard, AR-TX REDI’s President. “Our region is poised for exponential economic growth within the logistic, manufacturing, transportation and medical sectors, but we need a unified vision to successfully connect our resources with potential employers. The AR-TX REDI model will benefit the entire region and work across state lines to attract new commerce. A win for any area within our region is a win for us all.”

In recent weeks, several local businesses and industries have announced massive closures and plans for downsizing resulting in the eventual termination of jobs. Joey Martin, owner of Express Employment Professionals in Texarkana and past Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee Chair, said that within the last 60 days, he has seen over a thousand lost jobs- the largest number of jobs eliminated in his 21 years as a citizen and business owner in this community.

“The loss of 350 jobs at Harte Hanks, 600 jobs at Red River Army Depot, and others will take almost $33 million of payroll out of our economy,” said Martin. “Economists state that a payroll dollar will circulate through a community six times—that is an impact of more than $197 million to the Texarkana region. This effect is immense, and we cannot continue at this pace.”

Martin said that the future stability of our community depends on the alignment of our valuable resources with the needs of expanding companies around the world.

“Our region has the resources the companies of the world are looking for: interstate, rail, water, workforce, education opportunities, quality of life, medical and health care, etc.,” said Martin. “We can show the world Texarkana USA is ready for business if we work together and pool our resources. We must eliminate the state line mentality and put Texarkana MSA on the economic development stage to sustain our community and ensure a better future for our families.”

To achieve these goals, the AR-TX REDI board will hire an executive director to market the region and make connections with potential employers. The non-profit organization and its director will be fully funded by private donors and foundations. In coming years, governmental entities will be asked to consider dedicating funds and identifying tax incentives for the purpose of securing proposals made by interested business prospects and developers.

Currently, within the 106-mile AR-TX interstate corridors, nearly two dozen separate independent economic development groups exist. To bolster existing economic development activities in the area, AR-TX REDI will recruit new commerce through a regional holistic approach utilizing the state line as a unifier, not a divider, and positioning the AR-TX area as a key site for national and international business investment.

By collaborating with site locators, facility managers, developers, and real estate agents, the AR-TX REDI staff and board will serve as the central information source for response to proposals from prospective business and industry investors. Existing economic development entities will continue to make decisions regarding their commitment of resources and tax incentives but will benefit from AR-TX REDI’s unified response leveraging area resources to meet prospective business and industry investors’ needs and location requirements.

AR-TX REDI board member Dean Barry said numerous communities have created this type of economic development initiative by collaborating with existing groups to provide critical and timely information to site locators.

“Successful communities have an economic development engine working continuously to bring in new and sustainable commerce,” said Barry. “We’ve seen this model work before right here in the Texarkana region. As far back as the 1940s through the ‘80s, a group of regional stakeholders came together to recruit new business and industry to our area. We have these visionaries to thank for helping seal the deal with Red River Army Depot, Cooper Tire, and the paper mills, for example. It’s time to rally up in support of the future of our economy in northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas if we want to be ready for our future.”

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