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03/21/2020

Chitwood Addresses County Committee

 

Wednesday afternoon, the Mississippi County Planning and Development (P&D) committee was scheduled to meet, however, a quorum was not present as only chairman Bill Nelson and member Neil Burge attended. Committee members not present were justices Michael White, Fred Fleeman and Slyvester Belcher.

Also present for the meeting were justices Molly Jackson, Betty Hepler, Rick Ash and Alvin Clay who are not on the board.

Because there was no quorum, the committee was unable to vote on the projects economic developer Clif Chitwood presented. However, chairman Nelson stated he'd allow Chitwood to present his information to the justices present and then he'd present it to the full court.

Chitwood suggested revising the incentive resolution that was approved in April 2016, which stated that the project had to be something that the Arkansas Department of Economic Development could incentivize.

He asked if the resolution wording could be changed to say that they could incentivize manufacturing or manufacturing supported industry.

Chitwood added they are "perfectly" within their legal rights to do so as long as the quorum court approves.

Burge stated his only concern is potentially putting the county in a situation where they get requests and then get the, "well, you did this for this one, but you didn't do it for me."

Chitwood responded that with the words "manufacturing or manufacturing related" the court can judge if it is manufacturing related.

"I don't have any problem with a company going out here and starting a business and building it up to service these industries and everything. That's the American way," Burge explained. "I don't have any problem with that. I know you have to have some guidelines."

The proposed amendment would be presented to the full the court next Tuesday (March 24).

Justice Nelson also asked county judge assistant Cindy George to put the original resolution in there so the justices could see the changes.

Also, Chitwood pitched incentives for Ellis Processing and Material Handling (EMPH), which is owned by Rick Ellis.

According to Chitwood, Ellis's goal is to create 50 jobs with pay between $18-$20 an hour. Chitwood stated the Great River Economic Development Foundation board's recommendation is to incentivize this company up to a maximum $600,000, which would be $12,000 a job.

Although no quorum, Justice Nelson stated that justices present could ask questions concerning the jobs.

Responding to Ash, Chitwood stated Ellis is buying tugboats and that the jobs will be tugboat captains, crane operators and truck drivers. Burge added the jobs would be similar to Kinder Morgan's.

Chitwood added that Ellis has invested "several millions" in building the business and his platform.

Another business Chitwood mentioned to the committee is Glencore. Glencore is a global company, according to Chitwood, whose headquarters is in Baar, Switzerland. Chitwood stated they will create 55 new jobs with pay in the $17-$21 an hour range. If the county invested it'd be a total of $660,000 if all 55 people are hired.

Chitwood stated they are going to process electronics (cellphones, computers, printers, ect.) and those items will be sent to Pittsburg.

The next item Chitwood brought to the committee was an update of the Workforce Program. Arkansas Northeastern College Vice President for Workforce Development Gene Bennett says the program is valuable. Bennett added the program is now provided at the Allied Tech Building on the campus of ANC.

Chitwood added once applicants complete the program, data shows 45 percent are employed and nearly 25 percent have continued their education. Bennett added the remainder of those that completed the program may be working or continuing their education as well, they're just not aware due to possibly moving or they haven't been able to get in touch with them.

Clay asked if there were any physical specifications for those who apply, and Bennett stated they have jobs for all physical abilities, with many factory jobs now technologically based.

Bennett added the demographics of the workforce program has a wide range of ages, with the majority coming between 18 and 35, and roughly 60 percent African American, 30 percent Caucasian and eight percent Hispanic.

Jackson asked about the men to women demographics.

Bennett replied mostly men, that they fight the stereotypes that women can't do the same jobs and he stated they could.

Chitwood stated the program's account has been depleted and he would like the court to consider putting $200,000 more into the fund.

Meanwhile, Chitwood brought up another

position at ANC, internship coordinator, which would be a cost share with the county.

Bennett stated the job would consist of the person working with companies to provide internship opportunities primarily with manufacturing and to assist Chitwood in finding a pool of people to interview and possibly hire from.

Nelson asked, why?

Chitwood stated this would be an experiment or a test.

Chitwood added they are not trying to hurt into the temp service businesses and would work with the temp services.

He added it would be a college employee with a $60,000 position. The college would put in $35,000 and the county would put in $25,000 and the employee would work under Bennett.

The county's portion of $25,000 would be per year.

Burge asked Chitwood if this position is Plan B to the economic development position that failed in January.

Chitwood responded no and the position that failed would have been much higher of a skill level.

In other news, Chitwood stated White Gold Mill, which was first introduced last June, is beginning work and plans to make bids on the construction of the building in Wilson.