Train stopped a rollin’: EDCCC to keep $1.3M set aside for rail grant

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

An impractical ultimatum to start a $2.4 million improvement project in the county’s industrial park slammed on the brakes in further pursuing a grant application.

The Economic Development Corp. of Clark County pulled the plug Tuesday on its previous $1.3 million commitment to match a reimbursement grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The grant would have funded a warehouse or rail access connecting the industrial park to the Union Pacific line.

With a strict October deadline looming and no way to fulfill the EDA’s requirements — work on the project would be finished by Oct. 5, and neither the engineering nor bidding processes had been started — local jobs officials concluded that the process would be nearly impossible.

Board members talked at length about their desire to pursue the federal funding, but no argument would be enough to steer the panel from its unanimous decision to release the EDCCC’s $1.3 million from its previous commitment to the EDA.

EDCCC board president Kevin Jester said there was “very definite frustration” in getting UP’s assistance in the process of adding a spur. Jester added that it’s “really not realistic” to assume the funds could be spent by the Oct. 5 completion deadline. He estimated it would take 10-12 months to erect even a temporary facility.

Water rights rack up $25K bill

The EDCCC was hit recently with a big bill: a $25,000 invoice for administrative fees to the Ouachita River Water District.

Ten years ago the board agreed to purchase the remaining rights to water in the 400-acre storage basin directly downstream of DeGray Lake’s main dam. The one-time $767,623 purchase came with an annual $2,500 fee for administrative services. Since the 2013 contract, the EDCCC had not received the annual invoice.

The EDCCC is one of a handful of entities that have rights to the Lower Lake’s waters, owning 8.5 million daily gallons. The Malvern-based Kimzey Regional Water District is currently the only agency that uses the water it owns, supplying water to its five-county service area.

Jobs report

Hostess Brands is up to 25 jobs and is “working full steam ahead” to begin its bakery operation, reported Shelley Short, CEO of the EDCCC and Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance. The company anticipates being open by the third quarter of 2023.

The Gurdon-based McKenzie Farms has filled 17 of its 21 committed job positions, and is expected to exceed previously reported numbers of jobs.

Innovex is not yet ready to begin construction at its leased site in Gum Springs. The company was expected to start building by late second quarter 2023. Short reported the company is working on its internal infrastructure and has spent much of its time and resources in product development, having produced 4,000-5,000 prototypes of their product.

The Amity-based Caddo River Wood Products has added 15 positions they’ve committed to filling. 

Categories: Business

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