Arkansas State University officials and civic leaders in Lawrence County hope to build a comprehensive disaster training facility at two sites in Lawrence County. The Delta Regional Authority dedicated $150,000 towards the project on Tuesday. It was part of a $2.8 million investment package DRA pledged for projects across the state. The money will be used to improve infrastructure, the state’s workforce, and economy, the group said.
DRA has $28.5 million in new investments in the state through a myriad of public and private partnerships.
“We appreciate DRA’s investments, which are important to the continued economic development of our state,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “These investments will make infrastructure improvements, support business expansion and help create new jobs across Arkansas.”
ASU signed leases last month in Walnut Ridge and Imboden to secure property to build two disaster preparedness facilities. The vision is to construct facilities where different elements within a disaster response team – firefighters, police, first responders, and paramedics – can work a disaster scenario with each other. What they hope to do is create zones, such as a tornado zone, where there will be actual rubble and other obstacles that resemble the damage caused by a tornado.
Other proposed zones might include a flood zone that replicates flooded areas, an earthquake zone, a hazardous materials spill zone, and others. Each will present real life obstacles that responders will have to overcome. The project will allow students to bridge the gap between academia and real life disasters. The DRA funds will be used to develop a water rescue program.
Eight of the investments were made through the DRA States’ Economic Development Assistance Program (SEDAP), the agency’s main federal funding program that invests in basic public infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, workforce development, and small business and entrepreneurship projects. The other investment was made through DRA’s Community Infrastructure Fund (CIF).
Here is a list of the DRA’s latest projects announced Tuesday:
FORREST CITY: DRA will give $225,000 for transportation improvements at the city’s industrial park. Funds will be used to help match an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant and local funding to improve the park’s road network and build a rail spur. The improvements will support increased truck traffic and allow for a new mode of transportation for businesses that are projected to create more than 800 new jobs.
HELENA: DRA will invest $257,110 towards water service improvements for the Helena Harbor. DRA funding will be leveraged with other funds for the construction of a 500,000 gallon water tower at the Helena Harbor site. Currently, the closest water tower to Helena Harbor is eight miles away. Water pressure at the Harbor site is not high enough to support business expansion. The new tower will also be made available to 500 rural residential customers of the Long Lake Water Association.
WYNNE: Matthews Ridgeway Farms will receive $225,000 for the processing, packaging and distribution equipment needed to enhance business growth at Matthews Ridgeway Farms. The company intends to bring in-house processing, packaging, storage and distribution of Arkansas-grown sweet potatoes, a process now performed outside of the state by third-party providers. Over 80% of all Matthews Ridgeway sweet potatoes are distributed outside of Arkansas, often purchased by large food chains and sellers. This project will increase the volume of fully processed and FDA approved packaging and distribution of sweet potatoes.
TRUMANN: DRA will invest $225,000 in manufacturing growth. This investment will support a partnership agreement between the city of Trumann, DRA, and a private company to help a manufacturing venture increase community capacity, stimulate economic development and provide job creation.
EUDORA: DRA will invest $150,000 to build a rail spur. This allows the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District to assist in purchasing materials to complete installation of a rail spur at the Big River Rice & Grain facility near Eudora. The rail spur will reduce shipping costs and allow the facility to transport its products by waterway at the Lake Providence (LA) port.
NEWPORT: DRA will invest $200,000 in levee pump replacements. This project will fund the replacement of the levee pump that serves the north side of Newport and keeps flood waters away from homes and businesses. The replacement of the pump will protect about 525 households from flood waters and businesses that employ about 300 local residents.
BANKS: DRA will invest $52,000 in sewer system improvements. It will provide emergency funding for sewer repair to protect residents from unsanitary conditions. The system serves 80 residents in Banks and Tinsman in Bradley County. New pumps and tanks will be installed to prevent raw sewage from backing up into homes.
PINE BLUFF: DRA will invest $1.35 million in city infrastructure improvements. This funding comes through DRA’s CIF program and will support infrastructure improvements in the city’s central business district to spur revitalization efforts and provide infrastructure improvements needed in neighborhoods in proximity to the CBD.
“These investments align with DRA’s goal to enhance economic development and support infrastructure improvements in the eight states the agency serves,” Peter Kinder, alternate federal co-chairman of DRA said. “Our resources will help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives across Arkansas. This effort highlights DRA’s ability to build public-private partnerships to invest in the future of the Delta region.”
DRA coordinates directly with Arkansas’ planning and development districts for program funding implementation. In addition, the agency works closely with Gov. Hutchinson and his board designee to identify projects to receive SEDAP investments, which are aligned with state economic development goals. These federal investments require a minimal investment of state funds that can bring a large return in DRA and other agency funding and result in a greater economic impact for the Delta region of Arkansas.
Arkansas is one of eight states to receive DRA investments. The agency’s total investments in the Mississippi River Delta Region and Black Belt of Alabama will reach $20 million in 2017. With contributions from public and private partners, total investments will be $231.6 million.
The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000. It serves 252 counties and parishes across eight states.