Area leaders updated members of the local business community about the status of a number of community projects and plans for the future during the Crossett Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City breakfast.

Though the breakfast was hosted in Crossett, it was a joint project between the Crossett Chamber and the Hamburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and the speakers at the event included representatives from the cities of Hamburg and Eudora as well as the Ashley County school districts.

Crossett Chamber Executive Director Mandy White said the annual event is simply a way for local leaders to, “come and give a report about what is going on in their neck of the woods” so that everyone can be informed about what is happening in the area.

Hamburg Chamber Executive Director Hannah Morton said that the Hamburg Chamber’s next big event would be its banquet on Jan. 20. She said the speaker will be former professional football player Clint Stoerner.

Hamburg

Hamburg Mayor David Streeter said that — as a new mayor — he has been trying to talk to other mayors and community members to learn everything he can.

On the economic development front, the past year has seen the Magnolia Flooring Mill reopen, providing new jobs for the area, and that last week a Dollar Tree-Family Dollar combination store was opening.

Hamburg has been working on and will continue in the next year to develop a $1.6 million expansion of its rural water system.

“We want to kind of expand our water into Ashley County as much as we can,” he said.

Hamburg’s grant writer, Georgianna Cossey, noted that the Hamburg Economic Development Team — a volunteer group —had gotten a monthly farmer’s market started for the city and is working on a number of other projects.

“They have been incredibly successful; there are a lot of people who have taken part in it,” she said.

Cossey also said that work to revitalize the Hamburg Square has been ongoing, and that residents should keep their ears open for an announcement about that work soon.

Crossett

When she was given the floor, Crossett Mayor Crystal Marshall said 2021 was a busy year, and while some of the accomplishments are less visible — for example, a significant grant to improve wastewater operations in east Crossett — some have caught people’s eyes. One such project Marshall mentioned was the new Christmas lights that hang over Main Street, a lighting project that hearkens back to the Crossett of the mid-20th century.

“I actually had a lady stop me in Brookshires and start crying, telling me it reconnected her to her childhood (in Crossett),” Marshall said. 

In the coming year, though, one project will not only improve the city’s aesthetics, but its infrastructure as well. The state highway department is set to repave the whole of Main Street in the coming year, and Marshall said last week that the bid for the project has been awarded. Now those involved need to hash out when physical work on the project can begin without interruption.

“We are working to negotiate this timeline so we don’t have half of the road fixed and half waiting to be fixed,” she said.

Marshall also announced that the city would be working to install new tennis courts, an upgrade that some have sought for several years. 

Those who are in discussions to make it happen are exploring a possible partnership with the schools, she said.

“We know it is important to you, and it is important to us,” Marshall said.

The mayor also mentioned that the city is planning to move forward on replacing its garbage truck with a model that uses a single robotic arm to pick up trashcans.

 Because the truck requires the use of a specific kind of can, the city would provide one can to each household, she said, with the option for residents to buy more if needed.

Marshall said she drove a demonstration model of the truck herself, and told those at the breakfast that, “I was able to do it all, so I feel safe to say that if I could do it, it is a workable project.”

The benefit of using such a truck, Marshall said, is that, because it requires fewer employees to operate safely, “We are going to be able to take four workers and they are going to be reallocated to other areas of town that need work at no additional cost.”

Crossett Economic 

Development

During his report, Crossett Economic Development Director Mike Smith alluded back to Marshall’s comments about the wastewater grant. Because those funds are being allocated, that’s money that Crossett residents are not going to have to put up for the project through either taxation or having their sewer bills raised, he said.

“That is a benefit to every citizen of Crossett,” Smith said.

In recent economic development news, Smith said Cynergy Cargo — a trailer manufacturer that located in the Crossett Industrial Park in 2020 — has been hiring employees in an attempt to address a three-year backlog in demand for their products.

“I believe if they could hire 50 people today, they would,” he said.

Smith also briefly discussed the massive solar farm that Renewable Energy Systems (RES) is building on the outskirts of the city. The 800-acre project already has a power-purchase agreement in place with the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Cooperation.

At the request of developers, the city incorporated the RES site into the city limits this year and offered it a PILOT agreement — a tax incentive package available for certain economic development projects.

“They are going to pay a lot of taxes to the city, and guess what? There is no layout (in the construction) for the city,” Smith said.

He also spoke about efforts to beautify the area, and said that such moves on the part of residents and city officials can actually serve as an industrial recruiting tool.

Smith said that one prospect who was touring the area noted the appearance of the town, and, “his comments were that, by far, if he could choose where to live, it would be here.”

Schools

Representatives from both school districts — Superintendent Tracy Streeter from Hamburg and Crossett High School Principal Anthony Boykin — both noted that the districts have finished capital projects recently and have plans for more facility upgrades.

They both also discussed the work the districts have done to combat learning loss following the school years that were disrupted by COVID-19, taking projections of lower than usual graduation rates and turning them around to having a graduation rate that is higher that the state average.

Boykin also noted that students are enthusiastic to be back in school full-time, and said that CHS had 65 students apply to be part of its Ambassador program.

“Kids are hungry to be involved in school, to have that camaraderie,” he said.

Eudora

Eudora Mayor Tomeka Butler said that recent months have seen her city replace a water well and install new water lines.

The city has also been able to buy new equipment for the first time in years, Butler said, which, “made work easier, instead of harder, for our employees, because they already do a lot.”

The mayor also told the breakfast attendees that a new grocery store will soon be opening in Eudora. The owner is working hard to get the doors open to the shopping public.

“She has plans of hopefully — hopefully — opening before the year is out,” Butler said.

The Superior Uniform Group has also expanded its factory in recent months and was able to hire more employees, she said.

“We (in Eudora) have a long way to go, but we have started the process,” she said.