NEWPORT (KAIT) - The turning of dirt means economic success for Newport.
On Friday ASU's Newport campus broke ground on a new 23,000 square foot Transportation and Technology Center.
"It's going to provide us a much better facility to respond to the needs of our various transportation carriers and trucking companies throughout the state," said Dr. Larry Williams, Chancellor of ASU Newport.
Encompassed in the facility are two buildings. One is dedicated to the training of drivers including a simulation lab. The other building is geared towards diesel technology for those who want to go into the mechanical side of trucking.
All of these jobs that are in high demand across the state and the nation.
"We have a real shortage of qualified trained truck drivers. There's a lot of jobs out there for truck drivers, and they start at good salaries. They are starting at 50 to 60-thousand dollars per year if they are qualified, and if they can go to work," said Governor Mike Beebe.
Also announced was other big economic news for the area.
Millions in industrial and commercial investments are landing in Jackson County.
"Walgreens is going to open in 2008 in our community. We are excited about that. Today we announced a Sears store would be opening as well in 2008. Both of those show national companies are interested in our economy," said Jon Chadwell with the Newport Economic Development Commission.
Also interested in Jackson County are several industries.
The Medallion Foods plant will be installing a new 1.65 million dollar robotic system to their production line, while keeping existing jobs online.
Meanhwhile, the Atlantic Thermal Plastics Company, which makes insoles for boots and shoes, has also announced their plans to place a new 2.5 million dollar facility in Newport, which would create more than 60 news jobs.
These are all big things at a time when the national economy is sitting in a slump.
"People, back five and six years ago, when they lost three major plants and over 1,200 jobs, thought Newport would never be able to recover. However, the citizens of Newport have done a great job pulling together and obviously they've come back as a result of their collective efforts," said Governor Beebe.
It is still unclear at this time exactly when ground will be broken on the Atlantic Thermal Plastics Plant.
However, they currently already make products for America's Choice Products based in Newport already.
We're told both Walgreens and Sears will be open by years end, and the new additions to the ASU facility will be completed in about a year.