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The revitalization of Paragould: five-year program attracts more than 500 jobs to Greene County city.

IN 1987, PARAGOULD FACED A dilemma. It had an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent and very few job opportunities.

Since then, 509 manufacturing jobs have come to the city, says Jackie Ross, executive vice president of the Paragould-Greene County Chamber of Commerce.

What turned things around?

"We just went in and restructured everything," Ross says. "We changed the way we wanted to go after industry and what industries we wanted to pursue. We targeted more industry that we wanted.

"In short, we just got ourselves prepared."

Paragould's industrial foundation, established in 1955 but dormant for years, was revived. A general information booklet on the city was printed. All critical information on the city was stored in computers for periodic updating.

"We educated our people who were meeting with prospects," Ross says. "We had one person who represented our education system, one who was familiar with financing, one familiar with training, another who knew the utilities."

The chamber's goal was to have an answer for any question from a prospect and Ross says "we accomplished that."

He adds, "If they asked us what our unemployment rate was, or what percentage was male or female, or how many welders we had, we wanted to answer that.

"We didn't want to embarrass the state of Arkansas when they brought prospects here and we didn't want to embarrass ourselves."

Paragould 2000

Paragould 2000, the creation of John Bland, a Dr Pepper executive, was formed in 1988. The group asked individuals in Paragould to contribute $500 to join.

The money was used to buy property in the industrial park and for other growth purposes. More than $300,000 has been raised.
Company Year No. of Employees
 Opened In Paragould
Acadia Polymers Inc. 1987 60
Smith Precision Machining Inc. 1987 15
Tool Specialists Inc. 1987 14
Prestolite Wire Corp. 1989 225
Monroe North American
Aftermarket Distribution Center 1989 125
Modern Packaging Corp. 1989 15
Spectrum Finishing Inc. 1991 15
Monroe Inventory Return Center 1992 40

City leaders knew there was a good work force in Paragould, a key selling point.

Another attraction was Paragould's electric rates, the lowest in the state, according to Ross. Paragould has had a city-owned utility for years.

The city, about 20 miles northeast of Jonesboro, has two industrial parks measuring 233 acres and 40 acres, Ross says. The smaller park soon will be expanded.

The companies added to the industrial parks since 1987 include Acadia Polymers Inc., with 60 employees; Smith Precision Machining Inc., with 15 employees; Tool Specialists Inc., with 14 employees; Prestolite Wire Corp., with 225 employees; Modern Packaging Corp., with 15 employees, and Spectrum Finishing Corp., with 15 employees.

In addition, Monroe Auto Equipment Co., which opened a plant in Paragould in 1970, built two new facilities: an aftermarket distribution plant with 125 employees in 1989 and an inventory return center with 40 employees in 1992.

Partly because of the new plants, Paragould has grown by more than 3,000 people from a population of about 15,000 in 1980 to 18,540 in 1990, Ross says.

Paragould's unemployment rate now normally ranges from 6.8-7 percent, Ross says.
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Title Annotation:Paragould 2000 industrial district in Arkansas
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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