Jonesboro, October 5, 2020--Rail infrastructure is critical. In Jonesboro, Arkansas' Craighead Technology Park (CTP), rail service has led major manufacturers like Nestle, Frito-Lay, and Trinity Rail, to call CTP home. Soon, those and other large-scale employers in the park will have an even greater capacity to move their products.
On Monday, October 5, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the Department of Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $2 million grant to Jonesboro to make rail infrastructure improvements in support of Craighead Technology Park manufacturers.
"Providing the infrastructure businesses need to be successful is a top priority for President Trump," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. "This rail expansion will equip Jonesboro with the necessary infrastructure to accelerate business growth at the Industrial Park and surrounding commercial areas, and the project's location in an Opportunity Zone will further enhance the region's economy."
The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) added another $509,000 for the project, bringing the total to $2.5M. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin says the grant will add much-needed rail space for manufacturers. It will also create jobs. According to the Department of Commerce, the rail storage facility will create 125 jobs and retain 405 jobs.
"It's a great day in Jonesboro because this is extremely important to existing industry and future development that will locate here," said Perrin. "These are unusually generous grants, and we have a lot of people to thank." He also said the $2 million grant would not have been possible without DRA's contribution," Perrin said.
Perrin thanked United States Senator John Boozman and United States Represenative Rick Crawford for writing support letters that he considered critical to the grant's approval.
The site selected for the rail storage area is located west of CTP on a 9.6-acre tract that runs along the existing city-owned rail line. An additional four dead-end tracks will create room to store 120 additional rail cars. The rail storage facility's addition is part of the City of Jonesboro's long-term Master Rail Plan.
"We have been developing a Master Rail Plan, and this is an important piece of it," Perrin said. "Like most everything we have done during my administration, it has required partnerships. That includes Mark Young at the Chamber of Commerce, who helped set up meetings with the plant managers to learn their needs; our City Council, which approved the plan in the first place; and Grants Director Regina Burkett, who wrote the grant."
This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the East Arkansas Planning and Development District. EDA funds help bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.