Recently we recommended White Hall Mayor Noel Foster, Redfield Mayor Tony Lawhon and Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth meet with Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of The Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, and work toward developing a cooperative program to generate jobs.
It happened during a meeting last week at a luncheon Lawhon hosted at his home. The officials went further than we had reason to hope for, agreeing to meet quarterly in the future and invite Jefferson County Judge Dutch King to join the ad hoc group.
Marketing our area of Southeast Arkansas was viewed as an opportunity to promote economic development in Jefferson County. With the adoption of a county-wide sales tax pledged to economic development, Pine Bluff, White Hall and Redfield now have the resources to help bring jobs into our communities.
Getting potential employers to take a look at White Hall, Pine Bluff and Redfield is the first step in the process. Redfield and White Hall were the only incorporated municipalities in the county to post population gains between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and it would be nice to witness that trend continuing.
We’ve encountered major job losses in the county in recent years, including 1,100 contract, civilian and government workers in the reduction in force at the Pine Bluff Arsenal with the elimination of the chemical weapons stockpile; Charles River, a research firm, mothballed the company’s 87,600 square foot lab at Redfield, with 120 jobs lost; and proposed budget cuts threaten the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research and hundreds of jobs at the facility near the Jefferson community.
The Alliance is developing the Bioplex on 1,500 acres near NCTR. The focus is on high technology and high paying jobs. Cooperation may mean replacing many of the jobs lost in recent years.