Pine Bluff Sees End of an Era

Wallace Gieringer Retiring After a Productive 23 Years as Industrial Foundation Director

People are glad to see some eras end, like the Great Depression. But that is not how Pine Bluff and Jefferson County feel about the Wallace A. Gieringer era.

Gieringer, president of Jefferson County Industrial Foundation and executive director of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority announced last month that he would retire by the end of the first quarter of 1994.

Henry F. Trotter, vice president of the Industrial Foundation has worked closely with Gieringer for a number of years. He says, "It is no secret that Pine Bluff has long been the envy of a lot of communities in Arkansas and surrounding states because of our success in industrial development. That has not been accidental. It has been because of Wally Gieringer's experience, knowledge, insights and just plain hard work.

"We appreciate him, his family and the contributions they have made over the years."

A native of Farmington, Mo., Gieringer was recruited in 1970 as a professional director of economic and industrial development efforts for the county. Under his guidance for the past 23 years, Pine Bluff has emerged as a prominent manufacturing center and as a state and regional leader in industrial development.

Consider that since 1970, 23 new industries have been attracted to Pine Bluff industrial parks, investing over $239 million and creating some 3,000 new manufacturing jobs. (That includes eight facilities in the Harbor Industrial District and 15 in the Jefferson Industrial Park.)

Other projects in Jefferson County boost the record to investments totaling almost $1.4 billion and 3,500 new jobs. And Gieringer is quick to point out that those numbers do not include assistance to area industry over the years that has resulted in other expansions, a more stable labor force and economic growth.

Among the largest and most publicized projects was the landing of the Luxembourg-based company, TrefilARBED Bettembourg, and the Tyson Foods Inc. expansion.

Pine Bluff is now home to about 70 industries, and about 20 percent of its work force, or 7,000 people, is employed in manufacturing. In the last 10 years, Pine Bluff's industry has grown approximately 18 percent, while the national number has declined.

First With an ACE

Last year, Pine Bluff was the state's first city to be designated an Arkansas Community of Excellence. The ACE program, just begun by the state, honors communities who meet numerous standards for industrial recruiting efforts and puts them on a "preferred list" of sorts.

Even so, Gieringer says he is confident the best is yet to come for Pine Bluff.

"The Industrial Foundation and the Port Authority are in excellent financial condition and have the resources necessary to sustain development efforts," he says.

The two organizations, while distinct and separate, have a long history of working together.

The Port Authority, owner and developer of the Harbor Industrial District, reports a remaining inventory of 124 acres of fully developed industrial sites of the original 277 net marketable acres. The Industrial Foundation, developer of the Jefferson Industrial Park, reports a remaining 246 acres to be sold of the original 508 net acres originally available.

The self-effacing Gieringer attributes much of his success to local teamwork.

"No community has been blessed with more able or dedicated community leadership," he says of Pine Bluff. "When the chips are down, our people always come through because they work together as a team."

Gieringer and his wife, Suzanne, plan to stay in Pine Bluff, and he has agreed to be available as needed to the organizations on a consulting basis following his retirement.