Quest for Helena Port Tenants Took 20 Years

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

“After the harbor itself was completed, it’s taken us up until the last five to six years to complete the infrastructure that we need,” he said. “The bridge crane and the gas line were the last items we had to put in, so without a complete infrastructure it’s hard to attract industry. They want it all.”

Edwards recommended that the board start marketing the harbor to smaller businesses with 50 to 150 employees, feeling that getting one smaller client would open the door to more.

The approach worked. In July 2012, Enviro Tech Chemical Services of Modesto, Calif., announced it would bring about 70 jobs to the harbor. Earlier in April, it increased that estimate to 150.

Future of the Harbor

Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which is working with Helena Harbor, said the AEDC has seen increased interest in the harbor during the last few months, but no concrete deals have been made.

“I would like to be able to think that within the next five years, we can be closing in on 500 jobs in this harbor,” Edwards said. “I think that would be a great testament to the harbor and the community.”

Doug Friedlander, CEO of the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce, said Enviro Tech opening at the harbor won’t be an event unto itself but “an omen of what comes.”

“Before, there was all this potential, but there wasn’t anybody there,” he said. “Now that somebody is there, the first pebble has come loose and hopefully an avalanche will follow. … I believe that when companies decide where to locate, whether they do it consciously or not, there’s a lot of weight put on places where there are already other businesses.”

Edwards said the harbor could even become lucrative during possible water shortages.

“As the 21st century continues, water or lack thereof will become a greater and greater issue,” he said. “Arkansas as a state has a great opportunity to capitalize on this if we don’t blow the water resources we have.”

Frazier said Enviro Tech’s agreement relieved a great burden for him.

“Well, I feel a lot better,” he said. “It’s sort of like a subdivision or, I guess, a mall: It’s hard to get the first one, it seems like.

“After that, we can expect a lot more success in the future.”



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