Region 8 Road Trip: Tax helps boost Jackson County economy

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – A county rocked by two decades of poor economics is now running strong, all thanks to a town and a half-a penny.  A half-cent Economic Development Tax was passed by Newport residents in 2002 helping spur growth and just a few weeks ago they extend that tax for another decade.

When Newport lost almost 900 jobs in the early 90's something had to be done.

"The tax has helped us do a lot of things.  One thing it has helped to do is create jobs.  We've created almost 900 jobs in the last ten years," said Newport Economic Development Commission Executive Director Jon Chadwell.

Chadwell said those jobs make up about ten percent of the workforce in Newport.

"It let us replace the jobs that we lost in the 90's.  We are back basically to even to where we were in the 90's.  Now we can start going forward," said Chadwell.

Jackson county's job base is very diverse from manufacturing jobs, both large and small, to jobs at the college, the department of corrections, and in healthcare.  The half-cent sales tax has helped with job training, landing small business grants, and making the town more appealing to businesses.

"We've done a lot of infrastructure things.  We helped with the waste water treatment plant, with new roads with rail spurs and things that make us more attractive to businesses," said Chadwell.

Just 16 days ago Newport renewed the tax with 76% of the vote.

"The vote of confidence that the public gave also lets people at the state level and businesses that are looking know that our community is united and is serious about development," said Chadwell.  "We know that they're entrusting us with funds to do a job."

Agriculture makes up about 30% of the jobs in Jackson County.  Flooding is still affecting farmers who had to plant later or re-plant their crops.

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