Regional Projects Funded

Thursday, May 7, 2015
Those present for the grant ceremony in Marmaduke were, from left: ARI plant manager Mike Sowards, Greene County Development executive director Sue McGowan, Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon, EAPDD director Melissa Rivers, Arkansas Rural Services director Amy Fletcher, Delta Regional Authority chairman Chris Masingill, Marmaduke mayor Steve Dixon, State Rep. Joe Jett and State Sen. Blake Johnson. (TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) awarded a $100,000 grant Wednesday of last week to the City of Marmaduke, funding which will allow the city to make needed repairs and improvements to the railroad spur used by Anchor Packaging and American Railcar Industries.

It is important to make improvements to the railroad spur because "we have more jobs in Marmaduke than we do residents," Marmaduke mayor Steve Dixon said during the ceremony at city hall. "Our population is 1,111 while ARI and Anchor employ 1,250 people, and it's important to retain those jobs." There haven't been any large improvements or repairs to the spur in "probably 40 years," Dixon said.

Improvements and repairs will include new railroad ties, new rails where needed and building up the railbed to railroad standards.

DRA chairman Chris Masingill said the grant is important to retain jobs in Marmaduke at both locations. "This is what that DRA is for. We are the bridge between government and community development. This sort of grant has a major impact on our communities. The employees at these companies are important, and it's important we maintain their jobs."

The $100,000 investment is part of the DRA's 2014 States' Economic Development Assistance Program, which makes strategic investments in delta communities to support local and regional economic development projects.

"The DRA makes investments into the local transportation infrastructure of our local communities so they are attractive and efficient places to do business," Masingill said.

Melissa Rivers, executive director of East Arkansas Planning and Development (EAPDD) said "it is just as important to retain jobs as to bring in new industry." Marmaduke city officials worked in conjunction with EAPDD to write the proposal for the grant. Grant approval took approximately a year. EAPDD works with eight Northeast Arkansas counties on grant writing for many different kinds of community development projects.

State Rep. Joe Jett of Success and State Sen. Blake Johnson of Corning were also in attendance.

"A town is only as good as its leaders, and this town has good leaders who want their community to thrive," Jett said.

Johnson commended city officials on the fact there are more jobs than residents. "That just doesn't happen, which shows how great the leadership in Marmaduke really is."

Also in attendance were Mitchell Nail, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford; Nathan Davis from U.S. Sen. John Boozman's office; Sue McGowan, executive director of Greene County Development; Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon, and Amy Fletcher, director of Arkansas Rural Services.

The City of Corning also received a $256,500 investment from DRA to make upgrades to County Road 142 to secondary highway standards. This will allow increased access to the industrial sites along the road, providing direct logistical support for the expansion of PECO Foods, according to a DRA press release.

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