The Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority board spent much of its September meeting going over recently released Census data and the upcoming apportionment process.

There was a discussion regarding the need to advocate for district boundaries at county or city limits.

Intermodal Executive Director Graycen Bigger attended the NEA community meeting in Jonesboro for the apportionment process and expressed that desire on behalf of the intermodal.

It was also noted that there was discussion regarding Census numbers at the recent Northeast Arkansas Economic Development Coalition meeting in Jonesboro.

“Talent seems to be moving around the NEA area instead of moving into it,” Bigger said. “Craighead, Greene and Randolph Counties saw the most growth in the last Census.”

There was a discussion regarding the need to expand the coalition membership to include counties within a 60-minute drive time from Jonesboro. This would now include Sharp County.

“The focus of the organization moving forward will be to work together on talent recruitment and workforce initiatives to aid local employers and grow the area,” Bigger said of the Northeast Arkansas Economic Development Coalition.

During her report, Executive Director Bigger noted that all Intermodal memberships had been paid for the year and she had confirmed with ARDOT that the state’s intermodals would receive funding again this year and should expect payment in October.

In other business:

Bigger reported that she had worked with local real estate agent Terry Ryan to secure and market a new prospective site with rail access in Lawrence County.

Chairman Nick Manatt gave a brief overview of a new agricultural company coming to Corning. Manatt and Bigger have worked with the company to secure a space and resolve shipping issues. The new employer is renting a portion of the Hart building and will employ approximately 16 people.

Dr. Martin Eggensperger gave an overview of the DRA Workforce Grant that the Intermodal and Black River Technical College are partnering on. The grant will focus on expanding capacity for the nursing program and will include a partnership with St. Bernards.

Bigger thanked the board for allowing her to attend both CDI and the AEDCE conference in August. She has also completed Year II coursework at University of Central Arkansas and will be able to sit for the professional community developer exam after completing her third year. She also attended and volunteered at the Arkansas Economic Developer and Chamber Executive Conference in Jonesboro, where she was elected to serve as the District I board representative for the upcoming year.

The Intermodal worked with the state chamber to secure the BE Pro, Be Proud mobile workforce unit for Pocahontas School District on Oct. 15. It also made stops at BRTC and Maynard High School that week. The Be Pro, Be Proud vehicle will also stop at Cave City School District on Dec. 2. The goal is to have the mobile workforce unit stop at every school district in the Intermodal footprint by the end of the school year.

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