Blytheville on the Rebound - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Blytheville, AR--Brett Garrett Reports

Blytheville on the Rebound

BLYTHEVILLE, AR--In 1992 when Eaker Air Force base closed in Blytheville, practically overnight the city lost over 6500 people. That loss in population helped to put the city, located along Interstate 55, into a slump. However for residents the future may be brighter.

"We have said and I have said, three years ago, if I was speaking publicly, we are primed for things to happen. Now, I can say things are happening," said Liz Smith of the Blytheville/Gosnell Area Chamber of Commerce.

Smith feels the city is just starting to rebound after the air base closed. Mississippi County Economic Developer Clif Chitwood attributes the resurgence to a growing industry in the county.

"Steel has definitely played a key role. In fact, Mississippi County is now the second largest steel producing county in the United States," said Chitwood.

Steel companies like Ipsco and JMS Processing have just completed additions in Mississippi County. With a thriving steel sector, the county feels their prime location will help them to attract more businesses that rely on steel.

"We have a main line of the Burlington Santa Fe. For steel producers, we have the Mississippi River. We have the interstate, so we have a great transportation network," said Chitwood.

According to the county, over 2000 industrial jobs have been added in the last four years. The general rule is that for every industrial job that is added, it equals another job in the community. That means over 4000 new jobs are injecting money into the local economy.

"You are looking at just an industrial payroll of 400 to 500 million dollars," said Chitwood.

It's not just industry that is opening up in Mississippi County. Ground has been broken on a Captain D's, Zaxby's, and even a Starbucks. Smith feels this is only the beginning of bigger things.

"We are targeting amenity businesses that we think will help the quality of life like a movie theatre, more restaurants and even children's entertainment," said Smith.

Blytheville feels the next step in their renaissance will include a downtown revitalization project.

Blytheville feels another positive factor that should further help growth is Arkansas Northeastern College. That school offers more hours of industrial training than any other in the state.

 

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