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Location, Location, Location (Editorial)

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The frustration and resignation are palpable in the comments of Tim Nichols, president of Teamsters Local 878, which represents almost 400 workers at the ABF Freight terminal in North Little Rock. A move to Memphis seems all but certain, one in which ABF would shed some jobs and gain a geographic advantage.

For the Teamsters and for North Little Rock, there is no bright side. For the state of Arkansas, the only hope is to persuade ABF that the west side of the intersection between I-40 and the Mississippi River would be as good as the east side.

Since government incentives are the way the game is played, we applaud Gov. Mike Beebe for making sure that ABF’s parent company, the recently renamed ArcBest Corp., knows that our state does not offer cash rewards to companies that take jobs out of state.

The relationship between ArcBest and the Teamsters has not always been smooth, but the union has played an important role in the company’s dramatic turnaround and reorganization. The Teamsters had agreed to a 7 percent reduction in wages in a hard-fought contract negotiation that was finalized a year ago, and 30 terminals have been closed.

But even those things may not be able to outweigh the business advantage of Memphis over North Little Rock for this particular company. And Tim Nichols seems to understand that.

We hope ABF keeps its North Little Rock operation. Failing that, we hope ABF will choose West Memphis.

And we hope the Teamsters took note of what Steve Williams, CEO of Maverick Inc. in North Little Rock, told Arkansas Business a couple of weeks ago:

“I could easily — easily — use 500 more drivers right now,” Williams said. “He who has the drivers will have the business.”

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