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The Alliance marks 10th year of unified efforts.

While the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County officially was established in 1995 with the merger of the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce and the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation, The Alliance's beginning on Jan. 1 of that year was not the beginning of community and economic development in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.

James V. Crider, president and CEO of The Alliance, points out that Pine Bluffs Chamber of Commerce is one of the oldest in Arkansas, if not the country, having been established in 1911. (The forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce was the Pine Bluff Board of Trade organized in 1887.)

The Jefferson County Industrial Foundation and the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority were both formed in the early 1960s to focus on industrial development for the community and maximum utilization of the Arkansas River Navigation System. Both organizations have been highly successful--as evidenced by the number of manufacturing jobs in the local economy and the top-notch port facilities.

The Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County was created to unify efforts of those three agencies and increase their effectiveness. Shortly after the merger took effect in 1995, the combined staff recommitted itself to the goal of making Pine Bluff a better place.

From its first months until the present, The Alliance has focused on priorities and projects like:

* local and regional highway improvements;

* jobs--and future job growth across a broad spectrum of the economy;

* education--including funding for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Southeast Arkansas College;

* downtown Pine Bluff revitalization, in collaboration with Pine Bluff Downtown Development;

* supporting Jefferson County's federal installations--the Pine Bluff Arsenal and National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR);

* supporting further development of the Arkansas River, the Port of Pine Bluff and its Harbor Industrial District;

* supporting development of the community's tourism sector;

* supporting community beautification; and

* developing a high-tech park, The Bioplex.

During the past 10 years, some of that work has come to fruition and has begun paying dividends for the community.

In the highways category, take for example The Alliance's help in securing funding for:

* the bridge and roadway crossing Emmett Sanders Lock & Dam (now known as U.S. 63);

* completion of the U.S. 65 "southern bypass" (officially designated as Interstate 530 in 1999); and

* the recent opening of the "port connector road" (named for the late Louis L. Ramsay).

Concerning industrial jobs, there's been assistance with:

* numerous major expansions by some of the area's largest employers such as Tyson Foods, Allied Tube and TrefilArbed Arkansas;

* millions of dollars in capital reinvestments by our other industries; and

* the location of a new manufacturer, American Inks and Coatings.

Concerning federal installations, there's formation and support by a Military Affairs Committee under the leadership of Jim Bacon that is dedicated to promoting new missions for the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Concerning river development, there's The Alliance's longtime support for the recently opened Montgomery Point Lock and Dam in southeast Arkansas and ongoing infrastructure improvements to the Port Authority's Public Terminal.

However, some of these projects are still being addressed:

* The long-anticipated land transfer for The Bioplex was completed in 2001 and The Alliance now has a consultant, Art Norris, on board to guide this development. In the process, he is keeping an eye on federal funding levels for the area's existing Food and Drug Administration laboratory, NCTR.

* Although some highway projects are finished, new needs have been identified and are now the priority: construction of a planned extension of I-530 southward (known as the I-69 connector); construction of the long-planned I-69 corridor across the southern portion of Arkansas; and making sure there's funding for construction and rehabilitation projects necessary to southeast Arkansas' future.

Among many other standing and special events, the Chamber has sponsored its annual Business Expo each May (now in its 19th year), sponsored its annual Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry in the fall (the 53rd will be held in November) and has begun training its 24th Leadership Pine Bluff class. It has kicked off an Arkansas Scholars program in local schools, and several of its committees support educational opportunities at Southeast Arkansas College and UAPB.

In 1993, Pine Bluff was the first city in the state to receive Arkansas Community of Excellence (ACE) certification from the state Department of Economic Development.

In April 2004, the Chamber received "accreditation with three stars" from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

During these past 10 years, The Alliance has raised in excess of $3.5 million in three Partners in Progress campaigns to fund community and economic development programs.

"Since December 1997, The Alliance has operated from its new facility at the highly visible corner of Sixth Avenue and Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff," Crider said. "But I submit that, although the staff is housed in that building, The Alliance is located all across Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. Because it takes all of our Chamber members and all our directors and all our committee members to accomplish the volume of work that gets done."

RELATED ARTICLE: Business Incubator construction begins.

The $2.1 million University of Arkansas Business Support Incubator at Pine Bluff is under construction in the 600 block of Main Street.

The 16,000-SF facility will also house the UAPB Economic Research and Development Center (ERDC), the small-business outreach department of the university, according to Henry A. Golatt, ERDC director. "The project will serve as the catalyst and foundation for future business and commercial development in the downtown area of Pine Bluff," he said.

When completed, the facility will provide its tenants access to a converged Internet protocol network, office space for small businesses and conference facilities along with bundled professional services for those businesses, Golatt said.
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Comment:The Alliance marks 10th year of unified efforts.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Mar 28, 2005
Words:949
Previous Article:Mayor's letter.
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