The president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County predicted that 2013 “will be a great year.”
Speaking to a joint meeting of the Pine Bluff Rotary Club and the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club for Industry Appreciation Day, Lou Ann Nisbett said “a lot of good things are happening in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.”
She attributed a number of those to the passage of the three-eighths cent sales tax for economic development approved by Jefferson County voters in 2011.
Nisbett said the tax has created new jobs already, and “over the next three to five years, 500 new jobs will be created.”
A new mayor, new county judge, new Pine Bluff School District Board, new police chief and new chancellor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff “are all working together for the common good and that is a must for site selectors (the people who make decisions on where a business or industry will locate).
“Of course we want them to locate here,” she said.
Nisbett also cited a number of examples of changes for the better, including the new ownership and improvements at The Pines mall including six new businesses, improved signage and two new businesses on the outside of the mall; continued construction on South Olive Street around the Walmart Supercenter; new construction on West 28th Avenue, the arrival of Walgreen’s that purchased the USA Drug chain, and more developments in White Hall.
She said a major focus of her job is to retain businesses and hopefully see them expand, as was the case when Walgreen’s decided it didn’t want SAJ Distributors, which was part of the USA Drug holdings.
“We found a buyer (for SAJ) in Brooklyn, N.Y.,” Nisbett said.
That company, L&R Distributing, assumed ownership earlier this month and Nisbett said they started with 119 jobs, and “will add another 80 in the next few years.”
“It’s easier to keep a business than to replace one,” she said.
Because of the availability of funds from the Economic Development Corp., (the group that administers the sales tax proceeds), Nisbett said additional prospective industries are contacting the Alliance seeking information about Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.
“Prospects are asking us about incentives now,” she said.
In order to achieve continued success, Nisbett asked the Rotarians to “speak well about our community.”
“Potential business prospects need to hear good things about us,” she said.