City of Trumann receives another major grant

TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) – The city of Trumann is one of several municipalities and organizations trying to increase workforce skills and education at the same time. Recently, the city was awarded $206,000 by the Delta Regional Authority to construct an adult education building on Melton Avenue across the street from the Trumann Police Department. It's one of many monetary acquisitions the city has received in the last few months.

"It's a center where we're going to be able to bring people who are employers and business owners, like myself, to be able to do training of our employees, to be able to do meetings, to reach out to our customers," said Neal Vickers, chairman of the Trumann Chamber of Commerce. "There are opportunities and times whenever I can do workshops and seminars for people who are buying from my business where we need public space for that."

Vickers is also owner of Trumann NAPA Auto Parts. He said he represents approximately 125 businesses that are members of the chamber. He said the industrial community is excited about the prospect of the new building.

"Everyone that I look at, to consider them as an employee, has to be able to communicate well. They have to be able to write well. They have to be able to work on a computer very well," said Vickers.

Vickers said the building will be state of the art. It will include WIFI capabilities and smart boards for instruction. He said a large portion of residents who live in Poinsett County travel to and from work every day in nearby counties. He hopes by increasing their job skills, more businesses will be inclined to stay, move or expand in Poinsett County. By doing that, he hopes businesses will keep people employed within county borders.

"We're a bedroom community in northeast Arkansas to larger metropolitan area. Many people work here and work in other areas," said Vickers. "We've seen other people do it in other areas and we know for industry and for the community it'll be very successful."

The latest grant acquired in Trumann is just one example of how much money the federal government is spending in the Mississippi River Delta. According to the Delta Regional Authority, more than $9-million in federal money has been set aside for projects in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. The Delta Regional Authority, whose federal co-chairman is appointed by the President, was created in 2000 to assist in economic and educational opportunities.

"All of my colleagues who are chamber members also need that very minimum skill set. They need people who are trained. They need people who can do math. They need people who can read and write. They need people with computer skills. Those things are very important," said Vickers. "A GED or high school diploma is essential in the business world. I'll just use my business as an example, an auto parts store. We use state of the art computers. We use the internet to look up our parts. We communicate with our vendors and even our customers."

Arkansas State University Newport at Marked Tree already has a program in Trumann. Operating out of the Trumann water office on East Main, residents who did not graduate high school can learn how to obtain the GED (General Education Development). After the beginning of the year; however, students will be required to pay for the GED test. Once the new building is constructed, the program will move.

Barbara Lewallen, interim director of the Trumann Chamber of Commerce, is also a former educator. She said there are several reasons students drop out of high school, making the education center vitally important.

"They (ASU) have been here for a number of years, and they are occupying a building downtown. It's usable, but it's not really the best setup," said Lewallen, who is working to get a more updated venue for ASU's program.

"Basically we're talking about approximately 5,000 square feet, a parking lot, maintenance free and as efficient as we can make it," said Lewallen.

"We're also talking about a group of people who have already passed the high school years who can now come back and get some training and enter the workforce," said Vickers.

Earlier this year, the graduating class of 1962 raised more than $8,000 for new equipment to be used inside the building. This came after Jerry Sims and his sister, Patti Sims Swinford, donated $250,000 in "seed" money to start planning for the adult education building.

The city also obtained an acre of land donated from the Patterson family earlier this year. The city received a grant of $82,500 from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission on November 7th with the help of East Arkansas Planning and Development. The city then received the letter for $206,000 from the DRA in late November.

The adult education center is expected to cost $650,000. Construction could take place in a few years.

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