October 03, 2012 Edition

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NEARIFA cuts dues,
plans for future success

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

"These are tough times economically for our members," Wayne Gearhart, director of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority, said at the Authority's regular meeting on Sept. 27. "Our executive committee has voted to reduce membership dues from $11,000 to $1,000 for the next year.

"Federal dollars have dried up and local money is tight. It's a tough time for economic development, but it will get better."

He said reducing the dues does not mean lessening the role or focus of the Authority.

"We have been an entity for three-and-a-half years, and I am very proud of what we've accomplished so far," he said. He added that he believes a regional effort is the way to go in attracting businesses to this area.

Gearhart recommended that members review the way they do business and said he has already begun reviewing the work he has done in the past in order to make sure the Authority is ready when opportunity comes.

He said he plans to visit other authorities across the state and see if he might find ideas that would benefit NEARIFA.

"I'd like to bring the heads of other intermodal authorities together to share ideas," he said.

Paul Simms and Andrew Warren of the Arkansas Highway Department attended the meeting and told members that they are just beginning a new study to expand Highway 67 from Walnut Ridge to the Missouri state line.

The last study was completed in the mid 90s, and the highway department is holding public meetings to help plan a route for the future expansion. The Authority's stance on the highway is that they want to see it completed, and they do not support any particular plan at this time. They want a highway located where it will be beneficial to all NEARIFA members.

A new board member was introduced to the membership. Junior Briner of Walnut Ridge has been appointed by Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman to serve on the board representing Lawrence County. He fills the vacancy left by Terry Lambert, who recently moved away.

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