Friday, May 11, 2012

TOP STORY >> Carlisle has land for jobs

Leader staff writer

City officials are working to put Carlisle on the map with a 1,925-acre certified site for economic development right off I-40, which is called the best in the state.

Mayor Ray Glover, aldermen and members of the city’s Economic Development Commission met this week to discuss Carlisle’s economic future with officials from around the state and learned that the land is ideal for a major distribution center.

“We’re right on the verge of something special happening here,” the mayor said.

Glover said the purpose of the meeting was to keep the city council informed and involved in the city’s economic-development efforts.

Carlisle’s site is certified because it has met Teamwork Arkansas’ 50-point criteria for certification. What that certifications means is that the property is shovel-ready, so a business could get start building without having to do soil tests. Getting that certification took two years, Glover said.

Attending the meeting were Denisa Pennington, community development division director for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission; Joey Dean, executive director of Metro Little Rock Alliance, and Sherry McDonnell, community development coordinator for Entergy’s Teamwork Arkansas.

Glover asked Dean what he thought of Carlisle’s site. Dean said, “In my opinion, it is the best in the state.”

Dean said the site was ideal for a distribution center or several distribution centers because of the immediate access it has to I-40 in all directions.

Dean focused on the importance of regionalism. He said his organization pulls the limited resources of 12 counties with a collective population of more than 1 million to recruit industries to the area.

“They (businesses considering relocating or expanding) don’t care about city lines, county lines or geographic boundaries,” he said.

Pennington said, “A community that has stepped forward like you have, that is what we need from the state perspective. We work on recruitment and expansion of industries. It’s all about making things better for the people who live here Regionalism is important. We just cannot stand alone today. Money at the state level is harder and harder to come by.”

She emphasized that Carlisle has put a lot of work into the land they have to offer, instead of exclusively focusing on raising people’s awareness of the area. According to Pennington, that work paid off with the certified site, which is one of only 16 statewide.

She explained the members of the city’s commission did an excellent job welcoming a potential industry to town as part of its prospect-readiness training.

Asked if this put Carlisle on the map, Pennington replied, “Anyone who cannot see the progress you’ve made must have blinders on.”

McDonnell said, “I’m the person on the ground working with communities to develop their product. Having a site shovel-ready, a good product, is critical. I couldn’t be more proud of a community.”

She told the council, “They (the city’s commission) are the glue that holds us together. It’s going to be absolutely necessary for you to join us going forward.”

Beth Plafcan of the Carlisle Economic Development Com-mission presented a sample PowerPoint of what the commission would show on a visit by an industry considering a move or expansion to the city.

She said the city would tell the company’s leaders about the site’s strategic location, how it can be subdivided if they need a smaller space, the community’s workforce, education, help the city could provide if the company decided to come to Carlisle and demographic information.

Plafcan said the slideshow would be customized to emphasize how Carlisle fits with what the company is looking for.

“We will do that every time, go above and beyond,” Plafcan said.

Alderman Joe Cunningham asked Dean about the city recruiting smaller companies. Dean said the great thing about the large site Carlisle has is that it can be split into smaller section.

He said it was great that the community wasn’t limiting itself to large or small industries.

Cunningham said Carlisle residents leave the city for work in Conway, Little Rock and Cabot. He said the city needs residents to work in Carlisle.

The alderman also asked about quality of life, which wasn’t part of the PowerPoint presentation. Plafcan said that presentation would be made on a company’s second visit to Carlisle.

Dean said quality of life is very subjective and that companies look at statistics first.