Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers
Posted October 18
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Southwest Times Record, Oct. 11, 2016
More good news for Fort Smith
It's always good to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson in Fort Smith, and never more so than when he's here to celebrate an expansion in manufacturing as he was Monday.
Monday's announcement was important. The Pernod Ricard plant on Arkansas 45 is gearing up to produce 150,000 cases of Malibu Caribbean Coconut Rum in 750-milliliter bottles annually, creating 6,000 new work hours. The increase represents a partnership with Arkansas super-retailer Wal-Mart, which has promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
"This is great for Fort Smith," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said following the announcement. "It represents the type of creative collaboration that will further boost the economy."
Sometimes it seems fashionable to criticize Fort Smith's manufacturing roots or to downplay the role manufacturing plays in today's economy.
But this is an example of new manufacturing: clean, efficient and smart. And like the traditional manufacturing for which Fort Smith is known, it brings economic development across a wide swath of employment, as Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted Monday.
Starting with boxes made with International Paper products to the lunches workers eat to upkeep on their cars, benefits of this Pernod Ricard expansion will ripple through the greater Fort Smith region.
Speaking at the Chamber's First Friday breakfast last week, Joe Epperly, communications director for the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, noted that every job in manufacturing produces 16 in support services.
Especially exciting in Monday's announcement is the involvement of Wal-Mart. In January 2013, the retailer promised to buy an additional $250 billion in goods made in the United States over the next 10 years. This helps keep Wal-Mart on track to meet that goal.
If Wal-Mart executives are as smart as we think they are, they are going to find manufacturing in Fort Smith is easy, local and exceptional. They are going to experience the convenience of Fort Smith's access to rail, river, highway and air. And they are going to be blown away by a workforce with broad opportunities for training and a work ethic second to none.
Melissa Hanesworth, managing director of the Fort Smith Pernod Ricard plant, already knows this. When she says an extra 250,000 cases is just the beginning, she knows what she's talking about. Discussing "future growth" on the line may be understatement.
Fort Smith has had a terrific couple of months. Following on the heels of this year's successful Festival of Murals and the ceremonial opening of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, this announcement of good, old-fashioned manufacturing growth reminds us of what an amazingly diverse community Fort Smith is.
It's always good to see Gov. Hutchinson, especially when he reminds up of just how much there is to celebrate right here in Fort Smith.
Texarkana Gazette, Oct. 16, 2016
Two Texarkanas initiate historic attempt to work together
For years, most of us here in the Twin Cities have seen Texarkana as one big place to call home.
We live on one side, sure. But we may work on the other. Certainly we cross the state line as if it were just another road, shopping and dining where our whimsy takes us.
About the only real rivalry in most of our lives is the annual football showdown between Arkansas and Texas high schools.
But the reality is there two Texarkanas, in two different states. There are two city governments, two police and fire departments. Two sets of state laws and city ordinances.
And that sometimes means opposing priorities.
We have often heard from readers wondering why the cities can't work together. And we have wondered the same thing more than once in this space.
Now it looks like the two Texarkanas may be moving a bit closer to that reality.
This week, representatives from Texarkana, Arkansas, and Texarkana, Texas, gathered for what has been described as a "historic" meeting.
Arkansas-side Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell, along with City Directors Tim Johnson and Travis Odom, joined Texarkana, Texas, Mayor Bob Bruggeman and Council Members Josh Davis and Christy Paddock to initiate the Joint Texarkana Community Committee.
The group will meet quarterly to "discuss issues of joint interest" between the two cities.
While the group can't vote to take action, they can share ideas and hash out differences that could have an impact when votes are taken at the respective city governing bodies.
There are plenty of areas where the cities could work together for the benefit of both. Certainly issues discussed at the first meeting, like water, improved broadband service and improvements to the Bi-State Justice Building and the local airport, are important to everyone, no matter whether you live in Arkansas or Texas.
So what will come of this? Who knows. Maybe the committee will serve as an effective liaison between the two cities. Maybe it will just be so much talk with no measurable outcome. We can only wait. And hope.
But at least they're trying. That's a good first step.
Pine Bluff Commercial, Oct. 13, 2016
Think local, buy local
We were disappointed recently when a flyer announcing a Democratic Party rally came into our newsroom. It promised free barbecue to all who attended.
Now we don't have anything against free food — get it while it's hot, as far as we're concerned. What made us shake our heads in disbelief is that our local Democrats had their event catered by a Little Rock restaurant.
To us, that's like buying salsa made in New York City. It just won't do.
The flier included the names of some very prominent local politicians, as well as a political newcomer. Jefferson County Judge-elect Hank Wilkins IV, Rep. Vivian Flowers and Dorothy Hall, a candidate for the District 10 Arkansas House seat, were the promised event headliners, the flier said.
While we know that all of these individuals are fine people, we have to wonder why they didn't see to it that their event was catered by a local business. Local businesses are the backbone of our community. See, we don't have many of those fancy chains like they do in the big cities. Small businesses work hard to attract customers, and this event could have been a great opportunity for one of our local restaurants to make a good chunk of cash.
That cash would have then gone toward local taxes. It would have made its way to local banks, to local stores, gas stations and into the pockets of other hardworking local people.
Taking your money to Little Rock doesn't do anyone any good in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. We would like the organizers of this Democratic event to think long and hard about this in hopes that next time they will put Pine Bluff first.
This isn't the only example of big events snubbing our city, either.
A few weeks ago, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff opted to host one of their most prestigious events in Little Rock.
The annual Legends and Legacies event, which raises money for scholarships, is something we wholeheartedly support.
However, we believe that holding a premier event for UAPB in Little Rock is wrong.
We can't help but question UAPB leaders about why they decided not to hold this gala event in their home city. It looks bad to us, especially at a time when everyone is trying to build up Pine Bluff and promote it to the world as a place where good things are happening.
We are certain that Bob Purvis and the fine folks at the Pine Bluff Convention Center could have done a bang-up job hosting this event. Not to mention it would have brought hundreds of people to our community, along with tax dollars at places such as gas stations.
We were told by UAPB officials that a decision was made to host the gala in Little Rock after the Clinton Presidential Center offered the university a premier space inside the facility. That, coupled with the fact that UAPB played Jackson State at War Memorial Stadium that weekend in Little Rock, made for a great tie-in, UAPB officials told us.
We get it.
The Clinton Center has a certain bling appeal that, quite frankly, can't be found down in our neck of the woods. And with UAPB hoping to raise multiple thousands of dollars for scholarships, perhaps donors' wallets may become a bit more loose in the confines of a presidential palace. But we doubt it.
So here is our suggestion to all local entities, politicians and any other public figures who may be thinking about hosting an event. Keep it in Pine Bluff. Buy from our restaurants and stores. Perception matters. Most of all, though, our local businesses matter. Please support them.