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Counties partner to create new jobs

by Wayne Bryan | January 27, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.

— Agreeing that the economy doesn’t recognize the lines on a map, organizations in Hot Springs and Garland County and Malvern and Hot Spring County have joined forces to promote development and job growth as a regional effort.

Board members of the Hot Spring County Economic Development Corp. and the Garland County Economic Development Corp. have signed a memorandum of agreement to work together on some specific goals to create and retain jobs in their counties.

One of the first public announcements of the agreement was made during the annual awards banquet of the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 20.

During her closing remarks at the meeting, Nikki Thornton, executive director of the Chamber, said the agreement could bring more jobs to Hot Spring County.

“The economy does not stop at the county line,” she told the gathering. “I believe it is a win-win for both counties.”

Kay Brockwell, economic development director for the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, said both counties bring something to the table for a joint marketing effort.

“Hot Spring County has assets we don’t have in Hot Springs, Brockwell said. “The only interstate-highway access to Hot Springs starts at the I-30 in Malvern, and railroad access to Garland County is through Malvern and Hot Spring County. Plus, they have plenty of flat land available to be developed.”

The assets brought by Hot Springs, Brockwell said, are the larger population, the national name recognition of Hot Springs as a tourist destination and its major marketing programs.

“Honestly, it makes no sense to be competing with Malvern; it is like competing with yourself,” she said.

The Hot Spring County Economic Development Corp. and the Garland County Economic Development Corp. signed a memorandum of agreement. Both organizations are agencies under the direction of their chambers.

Brockwell said representatives of both counties will talk with prospective companies, showing them possible sites in both areas.

“The sites are yours and mine; they are just ours,” she said.

It is hoped the combined efforts can attract employers like light industry or what Brockwell described as “back-office services,” such as call centers such as Syles in Hot Spring County and Accent in Garland County.

“We would also like to see manufacturing and technology and perhaps bioscience in the future,” Brockwell said. “We are concentrating on business sectors that will provide jobs for a large number of people.”

In addition, the marketing of the region will also likely target employers eligible for incentives allowed under Arkansas law, she said.

Members of the two economic-development organizations said they recognized that the combined population of Garland County (98,479) and Hot Spring County (31,787) would give a much better presentation, as well as incentive, for many potential companies locating to the area. They also said they understand the reality of a shared labor-market pool that will result in more jobs for the region.

“Regionalism is working with our neighbors on things that benefit us both,” said David Byerly, CEO of the Garland County Economic Development Corp. and the Greater Hot Springs Chamber. “The partnership between our counties is a great example of regionalism. Working across county lines will create more opportunities for economic growth. We are pleased to have this agreement set in place, and now we are ready to move forward to create a stronger economic vitality for this region.”

Clay Corder, chairman of the Hot Spring County Economic Development Corp. when the agreement was signed, said the joint agreement will bring the communities together for the betterment of both counties.

“I am very much encouraged and excited by the enthusiasm shown by both economic-development organizations in creating this partnership,” he said. “We have, in effect, created a conduit that will enable us to share resources and talent.”

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