Cammie Hambrice Sells Magnolia's Central Smell of Success

Cammie Hambrice Sells Magnolia's Central Smell of Success
Cammie Hambrice
Executive Director of the Magnolia Economic Development Corp. (Stephanie King)

A native of Magnolia, Cammie Hambrice has spent the last 35 years in business, marketing, sales and as an entrepreneur. This experience was a good training ground for her job as the executive director of the Magnolia-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and later with the Magnolia Economic Development Corp. She is a graduate of the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas and the Mid-South Basic Economic Development Course presented by the Arkansas Economic Developers & Chamber Executives.

Hambrice is married to Ronny Hambrice and they have two children and five grandchildren.

What industries are you targeting to come to the Magnolia area?
Magnolia has always had a diverse industry base, including steel, aerospace and chemical sectors. Through the years, we have relied on our natural resources of oil and gas, bromine and timber to produce jobs for this community. Wood products continue to be a targeted market because of the abundance of raw materials in our region. Several wood product companies are located in Columbia County. Hixson Lumber is the largest wooden fence producer in the United States. Weyerhaeuser has a plywood plant and a nursery. PotlatchDeltic produces softwood dressed lumber. Anthony Oak Flooring makes a beautiful floor product. We have recently added Texas CLT to our list, which will produce laminated wood products.

What are your area’s strongest selling points — in other words, your biggest advantages?
Magnolia is centrally located in the United States with easy access to Interstate 30 and I-20. The low cost of living is also to our advantage. We have Southern Arkansas University, SAU Tech, SAU Tech Welding Academy and South Arkansas Community College for workforce training, which produce a pipeline of skilled labor. Our local industry has competitive wages and residents spend less time commuting, allowing them to spend more time with family. The labor shed of the Golden Triangle region gives our employers a large pool from which to pull.

What is the biggest challenge you face in attracting businesses/industry?
Beginning in 2017 until now, 10 new businesses have been added to the downtown square, creating a building shortage challenge as we seek new small businesses. Magnolia is the only city in Arkansas with a four-year university that does not have a four-lane highway running through it. Most industries request that sites be within 20 miles of an interstate or four-lane highway. Although U.S. Highway 82 is getting passing lanes and improvements, it should have been made a four-lane highway years ago to strengthen south Arkansas.

How did you get involved in this line of work?
In 2007 I sold my women’s gift shop and began my work as the executive director of the Magnolia-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. During a time when we were without someone in the economic development position, I handled both jobs. In 2010, when the economy began to improve, we had three of our industries looking at expansions. The MEDC board decided we needed someone full time in the executive director position, and I was given the opportunity.

Economic development is exciting and challenging, and it’s work that I enjoy. It has allowed me the privilege of working with some great people on the state and local level.

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