July 2, 2014 Edition

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Intermodel prepares for
Peco, discusses development

Dalton Sullivan
Star Herald

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA) is continuing preparations, including identifying regional needs in connection with the Peco announcement earlier this year.

At their regular monthly meeting on June 26 in Corning, members of the NEARIFA again met with representatives of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), and the Arkansas State Community/Economic Development Department to review some of the needs that are forthcoming, and see what progress has been made since the last meeting in May.

Denisa Pennington, director of community development with the AEDC, reviewed with the NEARIFA Board members and other elected officials some of the needs and opportunities that were brought up in May's meeting. She encouraged the elected officials from Pocahontas, Corning, Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, as well as Randolph, Clay and Lawrence Counties to meet at least monthly to discuss progress, share information and determine what the needs of their communities were.

Pennington challenged the membership saying, "This is your project, not AEDC's, you need to take ownership of it. Make every community shine and every community successful."

Pennington suggested the committees should get more involved over the next couple of months, including deciding on leadership, so they can move forward.

"Everyone needs to understand what the workforce needs of Peco are," Pennington said. "This is going to take every resource you have to get this done, and you have great resources."

All agreed one of the most important jobs for the NEARIFA is to be the "hub" of communications - to be available to speak to chambers and civic groups, and any other group in the region that wants information, as well as work with Peco to ensure their information is shared in the community.

Another need that was discussed was temporary housing. Once construction begins on the facility in Pocahontas, it is believed there will be a need for temporary housing in the community. Individuals and realtors in both Randolph and Lawrence counties have already begun to take inventory of properties, so they will know what is available when the time comes.

NEARIFA Administrative Assistant Deonne Donner said they were working with local chambers of commerce to make sure all websites were linked and had accurate, up-to-date information.

Executive Director Wayne Gearhart said the NEARIFA office would be the point of contact for services related to the needs of the temporary workers.

Gearhart said he and Frankie Gilliam of the ASU Community/Economic Development Department are working with other communities served by Peco facilities to see how their planning went and how Peco is impacting their communities. Gearhart said he felt it was vital for planning purposes to meet with and see these other communities, and how they prepared for the arrival of Peco.

In other business, Gearhart said he and NEARIFA Treasurer Milton Smith recently attended the Intermodal Task Force Meeting in Little Rock. He said it was possible there could be additional state funding available for Intermodal authorities down the line. Smith added the state is looking at combining all aspects of transportation under one umbrella.

Rebekah Bryant of Congressman Crawford's office and Nathan Davis of Sen. Boozman's office also gave Congressional updates to the NEARIFA Board.

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