Rage Fabrications to open in Trumann; civic leaders work to address economic development issues

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 338 views 

Rage Fabrications, a manufacturer that makes accessories such as bumpers for ATVs will likely open in the coming weeks, Trumann Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dr. Neal Vickers told Talk Business & Politics.

Rage recently received a $225,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority to open a manufacturing facility in Trumann.

Rage must hire at least 10 employees during its first year of operation, and must have 20 employees by its fifth year of operation. The owners of the company have been in the automotive business in the area for 51 years, and noticed a need in the ATV bumper sector, he said. Each job created will have a $10,000 per year impact on the local economy, and it’s part of the reason DRA issued the grant.

“We’re really excited about this. It’s not everyday that you get to open a new manufacturing facility,” Vickers said.

Trumann occupies a unique place in Northeast Arkansas. With its 7,500 residents, it’s the largest city in Poinsett County, but it’s only five miles from the largest city in the region, Jonesboro. This closeness creates many opportunities and challenges for economic developers, Vickers said.

“We are the largest and closest bedroom community to Jonesboro,” he said.

Trumann has a paltry 3.1% unemployment rate, and the median income in the city is $29,303. Many communities in the region have median incomes below the national average of more than $55,000, and it’s one of the reason job creators are attracted to the region, Vickers said. Labor is the number cost for most business, he said. Economic development officials in northeast Arkansas talk about ways to improve the median income in cities like Trumann, but the main factor will always be market forces, he said.

One goal the chamber has is to raise the city’s population to 10,000 residents. Many national food and retail chains are attracted to cities that size or bigger, and the local economy would be propelled if the more of these businesses were in the city. Trumann losses sales tax revenue to Jonesboro because many in the town shop there. Vickers said his organization has worked with local merchants for the last three years promoting residents to “buy local.” Discounts, giveaways, and other tools are utilized to encourage shoppers to purchase goods at home.

“When you buy goods and services in other towns, your sales tax dollars are being used to pave their streets, not your own,” he said.

To reach their population goal, the city needs one thing – more housing. Trumann needs at least 500 more houses in the $90,000 to $120,000 range to reach its population goal, he said. Vickers has talked with developers and contractors about building new subdivisions. A lack of housing is a common problem throughout NEA and the Delta Region. The latest figures show Trumann has 3,177 houses.

Proximity may also be an advantage. Jonesboro’s industrial park is located in the eastern section of the city, near Interstate 555. For many of the thousands of workers employed at companies like Frito Lay and Hytrol, it would be a shorter commute from Trumann, than from many other parts of Jonesboro where traffic congestion can slowdown drive times.

An advantage the city has in attracting new residents is the Trumann School District. The school district has spent millions of dollars in recent years to build new, state of the art facilities. All students in the school district have either an I-Pad, or MAC Book issued to them, meaning they’re immersed in technology from grade school through high school. The school district’s success has become a major calling card for developers, he said.

Roach Conveyors is the largest employer in Trumann with 275 employees. The school district is second with 251. Rage’s employees numbers maybe modest by comparison, but it’s a positive step in the right direction for economic growth, he said.

“We’re really excited about the possibilities right now,” he said.

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