Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Congressman/Lt. Governor Visit Crossett

Fourth District Congressman Bruce Westerman and Lt. Governor Tim Griffin conducted a joint meeting in Crossett, Monday, July 1st to visit with community and education leaders as a result of the loss of 550 jobs being eliminated by Georgia-Pacific.  Both elected officials stated very clearly that they did not have any magical solution to the loss of jobs but were willing to help in any way possible.

The first meeting of the day was held at the Crossett Economic Foundation Office.  A good crowd of community and business leaders from Ashley and surrounding counties were present.  Mayor Densia Pennington of Warren and Bradley County Judge Klay McKinney were present along with BCEDC Chairman John Lipton.  Also present were State Senator Eddie Cheatham and State Senator Trent Garner.  There were representatives of several state agencies including the Dislocated Workers Task Force and AEDC.  There was discussion of the job losses, workforce issues and highway development.   

A great deal of the discussion revolved around highway development and the need to get the I-69 project moving.  Congressman Westerman spoke about the elimination of "earmarks" by the Congress.  In the past, legislation was passed that designated funding for certain projects like I-69.  Now, funding is generally approved that leaves the authority for funding specfic projects up to executive branch staff.  The Congressman went on to say that one of the problems with securing funding for I-69 is the lack of available matching funds from the State of Arkansas.

Lt. Governor Griffin suggested that the state needed to look at new ways of funding highways, including allowing the private sector to fund and construct projects and charge for driving on the roads.  It appeared he was referring to toll roads. 

The Lt. Governor also addressed what he thought was needed to spur more job creation in Arkansas.  He indicated some progress has been made but that corporation taxes need to be further reduced. 

The second meeting consisted of a smaller group representing education.  The Superintendent of the Crossett School District, school board members and one principal were on hand along with Dr. Karla Hughes, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Monticello and members of her executive team, including Dr. Moses Goldman, Jeff Weaver,  Linda Rushing, Vice Chancellor of the UAM College off Technology-Crossett and Gregg Reep, Chairman of the UAM Board of Visitors.  Vice Chancellor Rushing gave an overview of courses available at Crossett.  Congressman Westerman and Lt. Governor Griffin both stressed the need for technical education.  The Lt. Governor spent time talking about the need to get more girls introduced to technical educational opportunities.  No new proposals were offered and there was no discussion of funding.

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