Port Hits Stride After Years of Work

by John Henry  on Monday, Aug. 20, 2007 12:00 am  

(Click here to see the top employers at The Port of Little Rock.)

The Port of Little Rock is finally proving its potential as a transportation hub

Its location at the nexus of one of the most heavily traveled cross-country interstate highway systems, an airport, major rail lines and, of course, the Arkansas River has helped make Little Rock the choice for two major new industries.

After Arkansas experienced a couple of well-publicized losses of "super projects" to neighboring states, the Little Rock Port reeled in two sizable companies.

The 741 acres purchased by Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd. of Mumbai, India, and the 135 acres that Denmark-based LM Glasfiber bought last month had been marketed for a long time.

Those involved in the economic development of the region say they aren't doing anything much different from what they've done before; it's just that the long process of building relationships with site consultants is finally paying off.

"After 10 years' involvement, we're an overnight success," said Mike Maulden, Entergy Arkansas' director of external affairs, head of its Office of Economic Development and chairman of the Little Rock Port Authority board, on which he has served for 10 years.

Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, said attracting the companies was the result of a team effort over a period of several years. The city has invested the capital to make the port a viable site.

"Economic development is about relationship-building," Chesshir said. Over time, the site consultants "began to get more comfortable with us," he said. "That was our job.

"We lost some upfront, but we did what we said we would do, and we gained an opportunity for the success we've had."

With the formation of the Metro Little Rock Alliance's targeted economic development marketing program, Cardinal Health Inc. came in, Chesshir said, and "attention was directed to us." Site consultants "now look at Little Rock as a viable place to do business," he said.

The Haley-Beebe Team

If there's one common factor to which all involved in the success at the port point, it is the work of Maria Haley, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and Gov. Mike Beebe.



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