BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the unemployment rate in Independence County dropped from 9.5% to 6.9% and gained 750 new jobs since January 1, 2010.
Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh said the city benefits from the hard work of the Batesville Chamber of Commerce, which has been instrumental in providing new job opportunities throughout the county.
"One thing is that we try to work as a team in this area. We try to help if we have an industry come to town. We want to make sure that we can facilitate the water, the waste water also. That's very crucial," said Elumbaugh.
According to Ed Mabry, Director of the Batesville Chamber of Commerce, the county has been able to attract new industry while maintaining existing industry. He said he's proud 750 new jobs have been created and 400 fewer people were unemployed at the end of 2010.
Elumbaugh said Batesville also benefits from cities in Independence County that receive new jobs.
"I think diversity is very important. If you have an industry that comes in and employs 1,500 or 1,000 or 500, and there's something that happens on the national scene that causes a layoff, that's tough. We would like to be diversified where we would have 50 and 115 jobs and we've seen that. North of town, we have a frack sand rail service, Hexion, that's coming in with ten or 15 jobs. If we can get 8 or 10 of those a year, that's huge for the city of Batesville," said Elumbaugh.
Elumbaugh said the city's two colleges also help bring skilled workers into the labor force.
"We have to have good education and we feel like if we can educate these individuals, if we get the skilled workers here, that's also going to help us bring in the industry into our community," said Elumbaugh. "The quality of life and living in a community like Batesville is very crucial. We've had two education processes that are very good here with UACCB and Lyon College and we are actually the regional hub for Independence County."
Elumbaugh said the business leadership in the county is a partnership. He said the city's responsibility is to maintain a solid infrastructure.
"We want to look for the future and we want to continue to be progressive. We want to continue to maintain our roads," said Elumbaugh. "We're very fortunate to land the DHS, Department of Human Services Call Center, which is going to employ approximately 100. They've hire about 30 or 40, but our part there was running the utilities, the waste water and the water."
Elumbaugh said sales tax revenues have remained stable, despite many other communities having difficult financial times.
"It hasn't always been celebrations. We did lose GDX and we lost White Rogers in the last few years. I think we have had a few folks that have had to relocate and we don't like to see that, but thanks to our economic development director and the quorum court and the city council all trying to work as a team, we're trying to provide those jobs and trying to build our community," said Elumbaugh. "We haven't had a lot of ribbon cuttings, but most of these employees have been absorbed by other industries. Our Future Fuels, our Flower's Bakery, Bad Boy Lawnmower, and of course White River Medical Center is a major employer for our city."