Educator: Reports of Arkansas Delta's Demise Greatly Exaggerated

WEST MEMPHIS, AR - Despite some assertions to the contrary, the workforce of eastern Arkansas compares favorably to its counterparts in other regions and can compete nationally and internationally, says Dr. Glen Fenter, president of Mid-South Community College.

"We have an abundance of great people in the Arkansas Delta who are supporting flourishing companies in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and even Missouri every day," Fenter said.

Fenter's remarks come amid recent criticism of the region after it was passed over an automovite assembly plant by Toyota.  Toyota subsidiary Hino Motors also recently passed on Crittenden County for an assembly plant, though the company does currently operate an automotive parts plant near Marion.

Based on figures from the 2000 U.S. Census, 7,253 members of the 20,154-strong Crittenden County workforce held jobs outside their state of residence, about 36 percent.  In Marion and West Memphis alone, nearly 6,000 of the approximately 15,000 workers traveled to another state for their livelihood.

"What that tells me is that we have thousands of workers motivated enough to leave home every day and to go to work in another county or state and that we have citizens amply and ably qualified to compete with the workforce in their destination county or state," Fenter said.  "And I am confident that most of them will choose to work closer to home when we grow more comparable wage jobs in eastern Arkansas."