Story originally published in the Texarkana Gazette on January 3, 2021

The 1,350-acre site is another tool in the economic development toolbox.

On December 22, 2020, the city of Texarkana, Arkansas Public Facilities Board closed on a historic purchase of 1,350 acres to support the region’s economic development efforts. Just over two years ago, both Bowie and Miller Counties agreed to a joint economic development effort now known as AR-TX REDI. This was an unprecedented and unified endeavor by the two states to facilitate job creation and attraction of private capital.

“Before AR-TX REDI was created the region was divided by state lines,” said Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “Today, this investment demonstrates the commitment by local leadership to erase borders and invest in projects to increase our competitive advantage in today’s economic development marketplace.”

The need for AR-TX REDI was clear. Economic development has become increasingly competitive with an evolving world economy, especially given the global pandemic, and the level of technological disruption in every industry from manufacturing to health care, from education to logistics.

Every day, companies are making data-driven decisions on where to locate, expand and unfortunately eliminate communities. These decisions are based on bottom-line advantages and the mitigation of risk. So how can a community like Texarkana leverage 1,350-acres into a competitive advantage?

By purchasing the site on the Arkansas side of the region, the community can begin the process of mitigating risk for a large-scale job creation project.

“Today’s economic development landscape is highly competitive. By starting the process to create a shovel-ready, publicly owned site, we are enhancing Texarkana’s profile as a region committed to transformative growth for our residents,” said city of Texarkana, Arkansas Mayor Allen Brown.

Available Land for Development: The Arkansas Manufacturing Center

A commitment of $4.1 million by the city of Texarkana, Arkansas and Miller County officials does not go unnoticed. The leadership’s willingness to bring this purchase to fruition shows their commitment of what it will take to be competitive in today’s economic development environment.

Since the purchase is complete, AR-TX REDI has already begun the process of site certification, which includes an environmental assessment, identifying permitting timelines, infrastructure costs and more with its partners at the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. The process will take approximately three to six months to complete.

“To continue to build and diversify our economy, we need strategic property that we have control of to market to prospects,” said Rob Sitterley, President & CEO of AR-TX REDI. “Often times, when an available site is privately owned, the community has no control of cost or timeline. Time is everything in a deal.”

Arkansas State Representative Carol Dalby says, “Economic development projects are won based on a variety of factors. Beginning the process of creating a certified, shovel-ready site will increase our region’s profile. We are grateful for the commitment by the city and county to make this 1,350-acre project a reality.”

A certified site will decrease business uncertainty by providing the necessary due diligence, the understanding of timeline and costs and consistent projection of market entry. However, community leaders warn this is not a “build it and they will come” scenario. While having a certified site will improve Texarkana’s marketability, they will need to continue efforts such as workforce alignment and development, business retention efforts and fostering a conducive regulatory environment to help create new jobs and investment in the region.

“As the country and our region reopens and recovers from COVID-19, there will be a significant shift in manufacturing with many companies looking for US locations. By having a shovel ready site, we will be seen as a market interested in mitigating risks and increasing speed to market for the business while increasing revenue for our community,” said former Arkansas State Highway Commissioner Prissy Hickerson.