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Fun for all at the mall The Mall at Turtle Creek remains popular destination BY CURT HODGES SUN STAFF WRITER

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Shoppers exit The Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro on March 19. From left are Wayne Gunter, Lucy Hutchinson, Rhonda Michel and Anna Hutchinson.

JONESBORO — Looking for a reason for optimism about the economy? The Mall at Turtle Creek has more than eleven million of them, said Gary Blakeney, mall general manager. That’s the number of folks that have visited the mall since it opened March 26, 2006. Since the opening of the mall, consumers in the city’s estimated 450,000 population trade area were given more reasons to visit Jonesboro. Blakeney said the mall’s 2010

traffic count will take the total of visitors above the 11 million mark as the trade area served by the mall continues to widen. “Jonesboro appears way ahead of the national curve, and The Mall at Turtle Creek has not followed the national trend of slow sales,” Blakeney said. He said the local shopping facility is the last fully enclosed shopping mall to be built in the United States and is the largest regional mall in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. Sub-anchor stores include Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Bed Bath &

Beyond. Known as a “hybrid center,” the mall features both a lifestyle element in the front, along with traditional enclosed space with its selection of special interest retailers, food court and national restaurants located on the grounds. It has become a shopping, dining and entertainment destination for the region. Blakeney said the selection of stores in the mall represent some of the finest that are available in the nation. He said the Merle Norman Studio, located on the PLEASE SEE MALL, H2

Many restaurants, one grocery store open in Jonesboro BY KELLIE COBB SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — Two major restaurant chains will open in the next few months in Jonesboro. Plans to build a Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse in Jonesboro were announced last fall. Darden Restaurants of Orlando, Fla., made a conditional use application to the City of Jonesboro in September for property at 2642 Stadium Blvd. to build a Red Lobster restaurant. “Negotiations for a Red Lobster in Jonesboro have been going on for nearly 30 years,” Josh Brown of Haag-Brown Commercial Real Estate of Jonesboro said in November. In November it was also announced that a LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant would be built next to Red Lobster. Darden Restaurants is the parent company of both chains. The Red Lobster is expected to be completed in mid-May, said Erica Jaeger with Darden. Rich Jeffers, also with Darden, said LongHorn Steakhouse is scheduled to open April 25.

More selection

The restaurant scene in Jonesboro continued to grow over the past year. An old favorite, one that caters to those who are gluten-sensitive and the first to offer Indian cuisine in Northeast Arkansas are just a few of the restaurant selections added.

Sue’s Kitchen

Sue’s Kitchen and Gourmet Shop reopened in August at The Station, 524 South Church St. The shop first opened in 1984

on South Main St., where it operated for 10 years. In 2005 the family got back into the food service business with Expressly Sue’s Catering, which is still a big part of the current business. John Williams, Sue’s son, opened the latest incarnation of Sue’s Kitchen. The menu features favorites from the original Sue’s Kitchen including homemade rolls, 3-way salad, peanut butter pie, pasta primavera, country vegetables and meats, quiches, awardwinning desserts and Sue’s “famous chicken salad.” The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday for breakfast and lunch.

Sookie’s Downtown Deli Sara Trimarchi opened Sookie’s Downtown Deli, 320 South Main St., Jonesboro, in September. The eatery specializes in gluten-free foods. Trimarchi and Leslie Gillette, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis as a pastry chef working with gluten-free recipes, have developed and improved recipes to create gluten-free food that tastes good. The menu consists of soups, sandwiches and salads, pizzas, pastries and even cakes and pies, all of which are gluten-free.

Tandoori Indian Cuisine Tandoori Indian Cuisine, 1903 Grant Ave., Suite F, is billed as the “First Indian Cuisine Restaurant in Northeast Arkansas and Jonesboro.” The restaurant offers authentic Indian cuisine, some of which is prepared in the tandoori clay oven from which it takes its name.

Graycen Colbert | The Sun

Final touches to landscaping continue outside Jonesboro’s LongHorn Steakhouse on March 21.

Graycen Colbert | The Sun

Construction continues at Jonesboro’s Red Lobster on March 21. The restaurant is set to open in May. The restaurant opened in May and features a lunch buffet and dinner menu. The menu includes a number of tandoori items like breads and chicken dishes, as well as beef, lamb and a number of vegetarian dishes. There are also desserts that feature pistachios including cold rice pudding and traditional Indian ice cream.

kids meals and dipping sauces. Side dishes include southern-

fried okra, Slim’s breaded and fried mushrooms, pickle chips with ranch dressing, fries, potato salad, coleslaw and Texas toast. The restaurant sports on eclectic decor including a blues theme, barn siding, weathered and painted wood and lots of signs. The business also has a drive-through. PLEASE SEE FOOD, H2 Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Slim Chickens Slim Chickens, based in Fayetteville, opened its sixth location in August at 1312 Stadium Blvd. The menu features chicken tenders and wing plates, wrap plates, build-your-own salads, sandwich plates,

Brittany Ward creates an Almond Joy cake at Bill’s Fresh Market in Jonesboro on May 21, 2010.


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FOOD: Asian, All-American and Italian restaurants open in city FROM PAGE H1

Caraway Road, features southern cooking and southern barbecue. The menu also includes fried chicken, skilletfried soft potatoes, homemade chicken and dumplings, eggplant casserole, potato salad and coleslaw, as well as homemade desserts such as cracker pie and pecan pie.

Hibachi Grill

Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, 1699 Stadium Blvd., in the Turtle Creek Corner center, opened in March. The restaurant features Chinese, Japanese and American cuisine. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Truly Asian Restaurant Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Truly Asian Restaurant, 2704 Alexander Drive, Suite C, opened in August. The restaurant’s motto is “Experience Asian Cuisine.” Menu items include Indonesian vegetable tempura, Thai fried chicken, wonton soup, Malaysian chicken, beef and shrimp, bubble tea, black tea pudding and coconut palm sugar balls. The menu also features a variety of chicken, pork and Angus beef dishes, vegetables, rice and side dishes, as well as glutenfree items for people with special dietary needs.

Skinny J’s

In 2010 Skinny J’s moved from Cash to 205 South Main St., in Down-

Graycen Colbert | The Sun

Fazoli’s

The menu at Sookie’s Downtown Deli, 320 South Main St. in Jonesboro, includes a turkey club sandwich on glutenfree bread. town Jonesboro, in the fall. “I wanted it to be bigger and to reach more customers. A lot of people came from Jonesboro (to the Cash location) on the weekends anyway,” said owner James Best. Best developed the menu and describes his cuisine as all-American. The menu offers steaks, pasta, seafood, wraps, burgers, salads and sandwiches. Best also has some specialty dishes on the menu, including the Reuben sandwich eggroll with Thousand Island dressing on the side. The restaurant can seat up to 140 and features

live entertainment.

Cregeen’s Irish Pub In June, Cregeen’s Irish Pub opened in Jonesboro at 201 South Main St. The private club offers a mostly Irish-themed menu including items such as fish and chips, cottage pie and reuben sandwiches. When the restaurant was under construction, one of the founders of the restaurant, J.B. Williams, said Cregeen’s was aiming for an “authentic Irish pub feel.”

Papa Jack’s Papa Jack’s, 2602 South

New restaurant Tandoori in Jonesboro offers a wide variety of traditional Indian cuisine.

Fazoli’s Fast, Fresh, Italian restaurant reopened Jan. 18, 2010, at its former location across from Wal-Mart on Highland Drive. Fazoli’s had closed a couple of years ago but is now back with new management, updated decor and a revised menu. “We’re excited to be back in Jonesboro,” owner Robert Hearden said. Although he was not involved in the first Fazoli’s restaurant, the franchise chain remains essentially the same. “We try to keep our prices as low as possible and will continue to provide unlimited bread sticks,” he said. The menu contains new baked products including chicken Parmigiano, rigatoni Romano and twicebaked lasagna. There’s

also pizza, oven-baked “Submarinos,” fresh salads, kids meals and sweet treats. Value meals and family meals are other features of the new menu, Hearden said.

Burger King The Burger King that sat at 1423 South Caraway Road since 1972 was demolished and completely rebuilt in 2010. It was the third Burger King opened by parent company Drury Restaurants Inc. of Cape Girardeau, Mo. The new restaurant was built in the style Drury is using for newer stores. It has a slightly smaller footprint compared to the original building but is laid out more efficiently with more dining area and a playground, said Dan Drury, president of Drury Restaurants. Seating styles combine from bar-height seating, regular-height seating at tables and booths, outside dining and the experience in the playground. “We plan to have a lot of interactive stuff for the kids,” Drury said last year about the playground. Also video games, movies and other entertainment have been included.

Bill’s Fresh Market

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

James Best grills asparagus and a steak at his restaurant, Skinny J’s, in Downtown Jonesboro on Dec. 22.

Bill Orr and his son Wally added their sixth Bill’s Fresh Market earlier this year. The newest store is at 4225 Stadium Blvd., an area of town that was underserved, the Orrs said. It is the third Bill’s Fresh

Market in Jonesboro. The Orrs also have stores in Tuckerman, Marked Tree and Batesville. The 22,000-square-foot store features a bakery, deli and the Orrs’ specialties — produce and meat, including certified Aungus beef. That expansion added about 50 additional employees to the company, Orr said. Now operating six stores, Orr said they’re gearing up to remodel Jonesboro’s Hilltop location. Orr said plans call for expanding produce selections and should be completed by midsummer, Orr said.

Harps Food Stores

Harps is moving across the street. Now at 203 West Highland Drive, the store plans to move to a 6.3-acre lot at 2005 Harrisburg Road. According to preliminary plans, the building will be 31,515 square feet in size and have about 155 parking spaces and an 8-pump fuel center. The property had been a battleground among developers and neighboring residents for several years, but the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission recommended rezoning approval in November 2010 after developers incorporated requests from neighbors into the plan. The plan was approved after its final review on March 8. kb@jonesborosun.com

MALL: General manager says team tries to ensure safety, efficiency and community at Turtle Creek FROM PAGE H1 Dillard’s end of the shopping center, is on Merle Norman’s top 10 studio list in 2010. Under the category of “Secondary Market-Regional Shopping Centers in the U.S.” the local business is listed at number four. Currently operated by Maxine Haun, the Jonesboro Merle Norman has been on Merle Norman’s top ten list during the past four years. The mall, Blakeney said, is 95 percent leased, and in the near future several new retailers will be implemented once leasing arrangements have been finalized. Blakeney said there are challenges with operating such a center. The three biggest are operations, security and marketing. The mall is “a small city within a city,” and one key element of any city’s success is its security, he said. Security is one of the hallmarks of The Mall at Turtle Creek. There are 180 cameras stationed

around the mall property, and those cameras scan the parking lots 360 degrees. “Someone is watching all of these monitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week to track all of the activity on our property,” Blakeney said. A monthly security training schedule is in place to help ensure a safe and friendly shopping environment.

Keeping costs down Keeping the doors open at the most economical level possible is also part of the overall operations scheme of the mall, Blakeney said. Focusing on the bottom line with a return on investment may be part of it, but in the current business climate one needs to examine the most efficient ways to reduce operating costs while improving productivity. With this in mind, the mall team focuses on green strategies for the property that reduce ex-

penses with a quick return. Thought is put into investment and design strategies that can reduce cost and-or substantially lower operating costs. One successful example is a cardboard recycling program. “Also in our environmental services department we are improving the health and safety with chemical-free cleaning Tennant machines that convert tap water into ionized water,” Blakeney said. There are other ways for businesses to be involved through up-to-date sources for monetary incentives available for “green buildings” in many different forms, including incentives for personal tax, corporate tax, sales tax, property tax, rebates, grants, loans and bonds.

Being a part of lives The key to future marketing strategies for The Mall at Turtle Creek is to assure that the retail shop-

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ping experience fits in the lives of the consumers in the mall’s trade area. In order to do that, the mall team seeks to secure an emotional connection towards The Mall at Turtle Creek in consumer’s lives by working to make shopping there a special event in comparison to the mundane task of bargain-hunting for everyday needs. “Our mall offers warm hospitality with a welcoming and soothing atmosphere, excellent customer service, current fashion trends and a social aspect with restaurants, and other new retail and entertainment options on the horizon,” Blakeney said. “Many people shop to feel better, and when they do, they give themselves permission to splurge.” With the traffic count being up by eight-percent, he said he knows the mall currently draws shoppers from all across NEA including Crittenden County as well as the Missouri bootheel, and even a

significant number from Central Arkansas and Western Tennessee. It goes back to the atmosphere that Jonesboro offers, Blakeney said. With far less traffic than neighboring urban areas, Jonesboro still has the comfort of a smaller city with the amenities of a larger one. What is the mall’s target market? Women age 25-54, middle to upper income households and families. Blakeney said it is his role as the general manager of the mall to work with retailers, property owners, the community and the mall’s professional staff, to develop new opportunities and to improve the center. “Together we work as an entire mall team to develop a long-term vision for The Mall at Turtle Creek in relation to its competitive marketplace,” he said. “I lead the development of the center’s annual marketing plans in support of the property’s

business plan and goals. As the general mall manager, I’m proud of our management team.” Besides Blakeney, the mall’s staff includes Randy Eggers, director of operations and security; Sarah McGavran, marketing and specialty leasing coordinator; and Dianna Evans, administrative assistant and guest services manager. In the future, Blakeney said it is his goal and that of the mall ownership to continue to meet the needs of the shopping public and offer people not only a fine place to visit and shop, but the kinds of merchandise that they desire and the experience that will bring them back. Mall at Turtle Creek is joint venture between David Hocker & Associates Inc., and MBC Holdings. David Hocker & Associates is the co-developer, leasing agent and manager for The Mall at Turtle Creek. curth@jonesborosun.com


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Glen Sain dealerships continues expansions BY CURT HODGES SUN STAFF WRITER

PARAGOULD — One thing is certain: When Danny Ford walks into one of his four Glen Sain automobile dealerships, everyone he sees will be greeted with a smile, a friendly hello and more often than not, a handshake or pat on the back. “I love to be around people,” Ford said in a recent interview with the Paxton News Bureau. Ford always tells his people, “You never go wrong being nice.” “I love to sell, especially cars and trucks,” he said, “But I realized early on that we had to expand to continue to grow.” Growth has been a big part of the Glen Sain story. It is a story of American enterprise, hard work and dedication. Being fair with your customers — your friends, he said. The “real-life” Glen Sain started in the automobile business in 1954 with a GMC truck dealership in Rector. He was a partner in that business with his father-in-law R.C. Tracer. When Tracer retired in

1962, Ford bought him out. About 10 years later Ford married Gail Sain and began working at the dealership with his father-in-law, Glen Sain, after graduating from Arkansas State University in 1972. In 1983 Sain retired, and the Fords bought the dealership. “I was 33 years old and scared to death,” Ford said. He ran the numbers and determined he had to earn $127 a day just to make the payment on the dealership. He was the only salesman, and Gail ran the office. A few months later he hired someone to help sell and someone to work in the parts department. Then the Fords decided to expand. In 1989 they bought a Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac dealership in Kennett, Mo. In 2000 they bought the franchise rights from a Kennett GM dealer and added Pontiac, Buick and another GMC franchise to their growing company. While the couple had no qualms about being Fords selling GM automobiles, they decided in 2005 to buy the Ford dealership in Paragould to add to

their growing group of dealerships. But there was more waiting for the Fords. In 2007 Glen Sain Motors bought Horner Motor Co. — a Paragould Buick, Pontiac, GMC and Cadillac dealership — and last year bought Tom Kirk Chevrolet, rounding out their Paragould holdings. Ford said the first Paragould purchase, the Ford dealership in 2007, was a homecoming for him as he grew up in Greene County and graduated from Greene County Tech. The Ford dealership in Paragould is currently expanding the service area, adding eight service bays. Those additions will mean more jobs in the community, something that isn’t lost on Ford. Jobs are important, something that was driven home to him as a youngster who picked cotton to help buy his school clothing, he said. Ford is also meeting with GM representatives and an architect to develop plans for an overall expansion of the GM dealerships on U.S. 49 south in Paragould.

Graycen Colbert | The Sun

Glen Sain sales consultant Phil Wynne shows a rare 2011 victory red Chevrolet Tahoe XL to customers on March 21 at the U.S. 49 South dealership in Paragould. “We’re planning to double the size of the showroom,” adding six new service areas, additional office space and expansions for sales and service personnel, Ford said. Additional lighting will be added, and five acres to the south of the dealership will be turned into more parking for a growing inventory. Ford credits the employees for the success the Glen Sain dealerships have had. That number has grown from 13 in 1983 to 83 this year — so far. “I never have taken credit for being very intelligent,” he told the newspaper. “But I’ve apparently done a good

job of choosing people to work with me. I don’t think I am a good boss, but if you have to be a boss, then you probably don’t have the right people working for you.” Some managers have been with the company for many years, some as long as 20. Glen Sain dealerships are members of seven chambers of commerce and sponsor 14 local youth ball teams, some of the ways the company gives back to the communities it serves. Ford said most automobile dealerships faced some hard times during the recent economic downturn. Some were

even forced to close because of lost sales or pressure from automakers. But Glen Sain has remained strong during those tough times, Ford said. “We feel very fortunate,” he said. “We’ve seen some changes, but we’ve remained profitable and have had no layoffs.” He also said that since the economy has seemed to be turning around the dealerships have experienced “a tremendous difference is sales.” “That’s a good sign,” Ford said. “We feel good about the future.” curth@jonesborosun.com

Recall, bailout not enough to stop Central

JONESBORO — This time last year the Central group of automobile dealerships were dealing with a lot of issues, including the recall of Toyota cars and trucks because of acceleration problems and General Motors’ bankruptcy and bailout, General Manager Ken Yarbrough said. This year those difficulties have turned around, and the American automobile industry, including historic names like General Motors, seems to be on the upswing as the

nation pulls itself out of what some described as a depression, he said. Yarbrough sees positive signs and believes automobiles are an indicator of economic health. Vehicles are selling, and people are smiling, he said. “We’ve done no expanding in the past year,” he said. The main thing Central did was deal with more than 3,000 Toyota recalls and watched as GM floundered and climbed back up. “We did our very best to do the right things

to please our Toyota customers during the recall. “We’ve seen a big difference in attitudes among our GM customers and representatives of General Motors that we deal with,” Yarbrough said. The differences are positive and have given rise to his feeling that things are getting better. “This is GM country,” Yarbrough said, “No doubt about that, and we’re thankful to be a General Motors dealer in Northeast Arkansas.” The company has fran-

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chises for Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC trucks. It also has the Nissan dealership for this region, and he said that brand is also showing positive movement. “We just want to thank out customers for their patience and most of all their loyalty to the Central family,” he said. Next year will be the 80th anniversary of Chevrolet in Jonesboro, he said, adding, “This time next year, we will be talking about that.” —Curt Hodges

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Kyle Widick adds transmission fluid to a vehicle in the Central Toyota shop at Jonesboro last June 18.

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Real estate agents earn awards, help neighbors JONESBORO — Local realty companies, Realtors and agents racked up awards, achievements and community service in 2010 and plan more for this year.

with a luncheon and skit featuring the Arkansas State University mascot, Howl. Fred Dacus Associates, 2529 South Caraway Road, was established in 1974, listing and selling residential and commercial real estate. Owners Fred and Brenda Dacus and company president Margaret Green all offer 37 years of experience in the real estate field. The company can be found online at www.jonesboro realestate.com.

Exit Realty Center

Exit Realty Center in Jonesboro has grown to 30 agents over the last year and plans to continue growing in 2011, principal broker Andy Anderson said. The center also teamed with Habitat for Humanity in 2010 to help restore a home at 809 West Monroe St. in Jonesboro and hosted a fund-raiser for Habitat, “Souper Sunday,” which raised more than $6,500. The company plans to repeat the event in 2011. The company and its personnel in 2010 also received numerous awards from the Exit Realty Arkansas and Oklahoma regional office. Among those receiving awards were Shelby Norris, Rookie of the Year; Prudence Fraze, Office Administrator 2010; Anderson, Silver Award, Gross Closed Commission and Top 15 Agents; Andrea Harrell, Gross Closed Commission 2010; Rita Hicks and Kevin Jones, Bronze Award. Exit Realty is owned by Robin Nix. The company can be reached at 9319090 or at www.exitrealty centerar.com.

Haag Brown

Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate Brokerage and Development, 225 South Church St., in Jonesboro was formed in the fall and has more than 60 properties represented in Northeast Arkansas. The company represents the development that brought Red Lobster and Longhorn Steakhouse to Jonesboro in November. It currently lists the Northeast Arkansas Fairgrounds prop-

ERA Doty

Shelia Hand, an agent with Exit Realty, works on a home at 809 West Monroe Ave. as part of a project for Habitat for Humanity in 2010. The real estate center also hosted a erty and is in the process of developing that site among others. Greg Haag and Joshua Brown are two of only three with the designation of the Certified Commercial Investment Institute in NEA, according to a press release. Brown, principal broker, has been named one of Arkansas’ Top 20 Business Professionals in their 20s by Arkansas Business; received the NEA Business Today’s Outstanding Young Executive Award and has been an Arkansas Realtors Association Diamond award winner for three consecutive years. Haag is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and attends conferences across the United States representing the Jonesboro area. He also serves on

Jonesboro’s 2030 committee, helping to mold the city’s economic growth over the next 20 years, the release continued. The company is a fullservice commercial real estate brokerage firm and plans to expand with technology, staff and real estate brokers who will specialize in certain sectors of the business. For more information visit www.haagbrown.com.

Coldwell Banker Coldwell Banker Village Communities ended 2010 with more than $74.9 million in sales, ranking the company as the No. 2 real estate company in Jonesboro, broker and co-owner Ray Pierson said in a press release. For 2011 the company has been ranked No. 1 in Jonesboro for January

fund-raising event, Souper Sunday, for that organization in November. and February, with more than $12 million in sales, the release said. Also in 2010 agents Kevin Kercheval, Keith Pace and David Howell were named to the top 10 agents for Coldwell Banker offices in Arkansas. Among community projects the company undertook were those for Special Olympics and CityYouth Ministries. Coldwell Banker Village Communities, 2704 South Culberhouse St., in Jonesboro, lists and sells all types of real estate. The company has 34 active agents. For more information call 935-7800 or visit online at www .coldwellbankerjonesboro .com.

Fred Dacus Associates A number of awards

were presented to Fred Dacus Associates of Jonesboro in 2010. Receiving Arkansas Realtor’s Association awards for the year were the Blackwell Team, Bob Harrison Team and Brenda Dacus Team, diamond level; Diane Cottingham, gold level; the Brenda Mitchell Team and Danny Ladd, silver level; and Fred Dacus, Charles Harris, Bill Waldrip, Deloris White and Seth Overton, bronze level. The Blackwell, Bob Harrison and Brenda Dacus teams were also named Top 10 Residential Agents 2010 by the Jonesboro Board of Realtors. As part of the company’s community outreach, Fred Dacus Associates participated in the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “Paint the Town Red” celebration

ERA Doty Real Estate, 2209 Grant Ave., Suite A, in Jonesboro is committed to the tradition of ERA (Electronic Realty Associates). The business capitalizes on the power of the Internet by utilizing tools such as Lead Router, IDX linking, ERA.com Mobile, TXT ERA, Quick Response codes and social media marketing to offer its clients instant connectivity when buying or selling property. “Our numbers are up, we’ve added top-producing agents to our team, and we’re launching a new look to our brand, so I’m encouraged and motivated by the increased focus on technology and growth,” owner and principle broker Steve Doty stated in a press release. “We’re still very much a people business because we love what we do. Technology is a tool that affords us quicker results,” he added. ERA Doty can be found on the Web at ERA-doty .com.

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Existing businesses expand; new ones come to city BY WAYLON HARRIS SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — W h i l e many businesses across the country were tightening their belts in an economic downturn, several Northeast Arkansas businesses were busy in 2010. Some moved to newer, bigger locations. Other businesses swapped hands. And a few new businesses made Jonesboro home.

Barton’s

In 1885, 27-year-old P.C. Barton stored a load of lumber behind his grocery store until he was ready to build a home. As customers began to inquire and eventually buy the lumber Barton bought for himself, he quickly decided he could earn a lot more money selling wood than groceries. Lumber was quickly added to the store’s regular inventory, and before long, the old grocery store was sold, and Barton Lumber and Brick came to be. What started as a family-owned and operated

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Josh Amborse, Surplus Warehouse store manager in Lafayette, La., replaces a piece of a mosaic medallion for a display before the opening of the new Surplus Warehouse store in Jonesboro on March 12, 2010. business in 1902 is now an employee- or partnerowned operation with 129 profit centers in 15 states and about 900 partners. Jeff Chastain, spokesman for E.C. Barton and Co., said the economy has slowed the company’s growth after it doubled in size in 2006 with the

acquisition of chain-store Bargain Outlet. So company leaders focused on changes at existing locations “to better participate in the local economies.” A few of those changes are easily recognized in Jonesboro and Paragould.

Waylon Harris | The Sun

Jim Conner, salesman at Barton’s in Jonesboro (left), speaks with Jeff Chastain, internal communications specialist for E.C. Barton and Co., on March 17 about Chas-

tain’s recent home remodel. Chastain said he dealt with Conner while selecting carpet for his home.

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In Jonesboro, the company’s Surplus Warehouse moved from Johnson Avenue to a new home at 2016 South Caraway Road. “We relocated that store from Johnson last year, and in addition to that, it’s a better looking store on the inside now, with much better merchandise,” Chastain said. “The move has opened us up to a lot more customers.” The company still operates its Barton’s location at 3023 Brown’s Lane in Jonesboro, where the retail building material outlet provides just about everything for the residential or commercial contractor or do-it-yourselfer. At that location, Chastain said they recently completed a “dramatic” remodel of the facility. In Paragould Barton’s moved to a new location at 1000 Country Club Road, the former home of 84 Lumber. “That move put us right on [U.S.] 49,” Chastain said about moving the store from its old location near the Greene County Fairgrounds. “It was maybe a 1-mile move, but it’s a much better space with greater, more convenient access.” Chastain said that while Barton’s and its other businesses have changed since P.C. Barton and his son E.C. were at the helm, their motto is still the same as it was when P.C. Barton said it: “‘Buy quality, buy satisfaction’ has always been our motto. It is better not to sell a customer at all, than to sell him once. “That’s how we want all of our partners to think about everything they do,” Chastain said. “Are we doing everything we do the best that we possibly can do it? It impacts us because we’re all owners of the company.”

“We’ve got a very broad range of clientele here,” Vickery said. “From the agriculture industry to hunters to guys who race motocross or people who just want to buy a cruiser, sportbike or touring bike — we do business with all of them, from an 18-yearold to an 80-year-old.”

That French Shoppe

For those with an eye for stylish furniture and decor or just a small gift for any occasion, That French Shoppe, 456 Southwest Drive, Jonesboro, offers a wide variety of products to make home feel a little more comfortable, owner Leigh Montgomery said. She said reception from the community has been great since the store opened in July 2010. “Everything has gone so well,” Montgomery said. “We’ve had great response from our customers, and we’ve built up a really good customer base full of loyal people. They seem to be very accepting and love the look of the store and what we have to offer.” Montgomery said three are employed at the business. She’s there full time, and she said she’s looking to hire another full-time employee. “We’re definitely optimistic that it’s going to keep getting better and better,” Montgomery said. “We’re so new our name is still getting out there.” Montgomery said she’s adding inventory frequently, and she’s excited about offering a new line of baby bedding. While homeowners can find the big furniture items or accent pieces to finish a room, Montgomery said the store also offers great affordable gifts for holidays, birthdays and special events. That French Shoppe also sells original artwork by Arkansas artists, including Jonesboro artist Sean Shrum. “We’re excited about this year. Everything has been going really, really well,” Montgomery said. “So far, it’s been a great start.” wharris@jonesborosun.com

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munity’s reception has been great since Barton Powersports opened in May 2010. “We sell a fun product,” Vickery said. “What we sell, some use for work, but a lot of what we sell is for fun. We’re very appreciative of the open arms we’ve received from customers and the fact that they’re giving us opportunities. We don’t take that lightly.” With signs of an improving economy, Vickery said sales are far ahead of previous projections. “That’s the thing,” he said. “We’re seeing a tremendous increase [in sales] but also understand that during 2010 when people weren’t necessarily spending, we were seeing months that were doubling what the prior company had in the same months the previous year. “We saw major growth instantly. Our peak is not anywhere close to where we’re at now. We really feel good about what Jonesboro has to offer in this industry.” Specializing in sales and service of motorcycles, ATVs and side-bysides of the Honda, Polaris, Yamaha and Suzuki make, Vickery said business has been so good the Jonesboro location is still in the process of being renovated. “We’re still in the process of doing more and more as far as renovation of the facility, adding personnel and, of course, adding a lot of inventory, meaning major units — motorcycles, side-bysides and ATVs.” Business has been so good, Vickery said, they’re adding staff at the Jonesboro location. There were 13 employees when Barton Powersports took over the location. Now Vickery said 16 are employed. “We’ve got a great m i x , ” Vi c k e r y s a i d . “There were I believe 13 when we started. We’ve made some changes and added some positions and moved some people around a little bit.” Vickery said the recreational vehicle industry caters to numerous niche markets.

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Small businesses grow during ’10 BY SHERRY F. PRUITT SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — Acquisitions and expansions have allowed a number of small businesses in the Jonesboro area to grow during the past 12 months. Changes by some local merchants will allow more convenience and better or more services for customers.

Sound Concepts

Sound Concepts of Jonesboro bought the home audio and video portion of Audio Video Etc. in Jonesboro in February 2010 to enhance its home entertainment business and has been progressing along ever since, said Kyle Thomas, vice president of Sound Concepts. “We have hired an additional three employees: Clayton Fletcher, Jonathan Wilson and Jimmy Smith. We have expanded our showroom an additional 7,500 square feet to make a total of $17,500 square feet,” Thomas said. “We have grown our business $500,000 since last year in sales. Nationally, Sound Concepts has grown to be one of the top CE Pro (an information source for Custom Electronics) dealers in the country. No other dealer in Arkansas has made the top 100 list in the past.” The acquisition allowed the company to add lines of home

audio and home theater equipment and to grow its home automation business. Home automation allows homeowners and business owners to have full control of their home and business environments. The system allows remote changing of thermostats or video monitoring of swimming pools, garages, grounds or any other part of a user’s property. Using an iPhone, BlackBerry or other similar cellular device, a person whose home or business has been properly equipped can, for example, remotely raise the temperature in their homes in the winter or lower it in the summer, so it will be comfortable when they arrive. The expanded equipment lines available from the acquisition provide a greater opportunity for Sound Concepts to compete with big-box and large retailers in most areas of home entertainment, he said. “We are planning on breaking the top 40 next go around,” Thomas said. “Sound Concepts is growing, and with its current jobs in progress we expect 2011 to be a record year.”

S&S Building Specialties S&S Building Specialties bought out the door shop of CD Custom Closets and Doors in July and expanded its operation

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Keith Sneed adds hinges to a door at S&S Building Specialities in Jonesboro on July 27.

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Jason Broadaway assembles a bicycle at the downtown Gearhead Outfitters store in Jonesboro on Dec. 22. at 4803 East Parker Road. Owner Bob Shaw said at the time the takeover would not change anything at S&S, except to absorb some of CD’s local door business. The company’s customer base for interior and exterior doors, windows and moldings is within a 75-mile radius of Jonesboro. Shaw said the business’ focus is on customer service and quality products. The door shop, next to the showroom, is where the door units are made, starting with moldings and door slabs. Each unit is carefully made and packaged for delivery, Shaw said. Doors can be anything from paint-grade fiberglass interior units to solid wood for interior and entry units to high-end decorator entry doors. But the business is not just about doors, windows and moldings. “We specialize in finished products for the home,” he said. They include decorative fireplaces with electric units that look like flames; decorative, marble-topped bath vanities, stairs and rails; decorative door units, including steel, several kinds of solid wood and veneers; and decorative iron accents. Shaw said S&S works with

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customers to add the designer touches to their homes, beginning with the front door. Shaw said he has been in business since 2001, buying out the door shop of DSA Materials. Over the years S&S has sold in excess of 80,000 door units.

Gearhead Nate Rice, bicycle mechanic at Gearhead Outfitters in Downtown Jonesboro, said the company bought a building on the west side of Main Street, opposite its main store, and started renovations last week to the facility. It’s the former Eagle Department Store, which served the city as a seasonal Winter Wonderland Christmas display for years. Renovations are expected to be done in June or July, he said. The building will be restored to its original look. Bicycles and accessories will be housed in the facility, and an expanded clothing line will be located where the bikes are now, Rice said. Ted Herget started Gearhead Outfitters in a 700-square-foot building on Flint Street. From that small beginning was born a major homegrown business in Jonesboro that expanded to

the 200 block of Main Street in Jonesboro’s historic downtown business district and then also to The Mall at Turtle Creek. Herget has said he wants to maintain the integrity of the original Eagle Department Store at 233 South Main St. An eagle is still visible in the tile entrance, and the new owners, Herget and his wife, Amanda, want to keep the original feel and theme of the exterior and would like to see photos of the original store and talk to people who remember it. “We’ve got a really good bicycle business in Jonesboro,” Herget said. Gearhead sells everything from the top-of-theline competition bikes, costing thousands, to some for less than $400. “I’m also very encouraged and happy about the success of the store at The Mall at Turtle Creek,” Herget previously said. Gearhead has been part of the Jonesboro community for about 15 years.

Back Beat

Back Beat Music celebrated its 15th year in business in 2010 but also the recent move to a PLEASE SEE BUSINESSES, H10


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GROWTH: Businesses open in Jonesboro in 2010 FROM PAGE H9 larger building, which should afford it plenty of room for expansion. The music store relocated in April and now operates out of 613 Southwest Drive, a half-mile from its longtime location next to Posey Peddler. The former Arkla Gas building offers 4,400 square feet — nearly double the space Back Beat occupied in two adjacent but separate buildings up the street. Music lessons, a service that has grown steadily over the years, will benefit the most from the additional space. Back Beat keeps about 230 music students on its weekly roster. Lessons are offered year-round for piano, guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, banjo and vocals. The business has six full-time instructors, two part-time instructors and four store employees. The facility also offers summer music camps held at the store. Arnold said the store opened at an opportune time in 1995 when there was a good market for a music store in Jonesboro. He said he started out small but was able to pick up some quality product lines.

accommodate its clientele. The Norris’ company provides vinyl graphics for race cars, banners, business signs, yard signs, vehicle lettering, shirts, hoodies and business cards. The business now also does brochures, flyers and promotional items. Norris Signs and Graphics will make another move this year to a location that will offer more space for the Norris’ work. “We needed a bigger space. We outgrew our space in the old Spanish Mall,” Norris said.

Alexander’s Alexander’s Machine Shop, 1201 East Johnson Ave., will celebrate 40 years of business in April and honored two employees who have been with the shop almost as long. “We began in April of 1971 at 240 Union and moved to our current location in January 1993,” shop owner Jimmy Alexander said. The shop caters to industries, farmers and

businesses where they need work done related to metal. The shop makes and repairs parts for industrial and farm machinery and equipment. It also handles CNC production tuning. Nearing its 40th anniversary, employees Gary Gillean and John Bishop can look back at almost 40 years of dedicated service. Gillean has been with the shop for 39 years, and Bishop has been employed there for almost 34 years. “Gary Gillean has been with our company since May 1972,” Alexander said. “John Bishop, a dedicated and reliable employee, has worked for us since July 1977.”

Pepsi Beverages Pepsi Beverages Co., the beverage division of PepsiCo, added several new products throughout 2010 and was integrated into the new company. Formerly PepsiAmericas, it was bought in 2010 by PepsiCo.

Norris Signs

Norris Signs and Graphics expanded printing services in 2010 to offer more products to small business markets. “Norris Signs has always marketed its business to the small business and small orders,” office manager Lori Norris said. Harold Norris, owner of Norris Signs and Graphics, opened the business in 2003, and it started quite small. “This business was moved from a shop behind our home to (1000 South Caraway Road) Jonesboro to make our location more accessible and provide service to more customers,” she said. The business grew in size and products to better

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Greg Arnold holds a guitar in Back Beat Music at Jonesboro. PBC operates in the United States, Canada and Mexico, encompassing about 75 percent of PepsiCo’s North American beverage volume. Its portfolio includes beverage brands such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, Aquafina, Gatorade, SoBe, Lipton and Amp Energy. The company is headquartered in Westchester County, N.Y. The company’s leadership in Northeast Arkansas includes Chris Conger; Territory Sales Managers Brock Anderson and Jerry Owens; Delivery Service Manager Barry Cooney; Manager of Key Chain Accounts Dennis Spurlock; Robert Stewart of plant operations; Derek McPike in food service; Darren McNail in work, travel and recreation accounts; and Dwight Boyd in education and vending accounts. For more information call 932-6649.

Marck Recycling & Waste

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

John Mitchell (right) and Jason McNatt shove shredded recyclable paper onto a conveyor belt to be compacted into a shipping bale on April 20 at Marck Recycling and Waste Services in Brookland.

Marck Recycling and Waste Services made several improvements in 2010 and is now the largest waste hauling company in the area, having acquired WCA Jonesboro Hauling, company officials said. Marck also now offers commercial cardboard and mixed paper recycling in the Jonesboro area and

has begun processing the materials for the Craighead County Blue Bag recycling program. Offering post-consumer and post-industrial recycling and waste disposal services, Marck is “the only company in the area that can effectively and responsibly manage your solid waste stream,” said Mike Wilson of Marck Industries. Marck offers complementary industrial waste audits for businesses in the Jonesboro area. “Our team of waste specialists can make a dramatic impact on the amounts of materials you are sending to the landfill, thus adding money to your bottom line,” Wilson said. For more information call 935-1491.

Patken Consulting Patken Consulting Inc., a charter bus service, added one bus to its fleet in 2010. Patken began operation with one bus but added a second in 2008 and another in 2009. Patken, 752 Craighead Road 439, provides charter bus service for city tours, airport service, family reunions, schools, churches and more. Owners Kenneth and Patsy Gerber are, respectively, the president and vice president-general manager.

For more information call contact Patken Consulting at 932-1275.

Autowash Partners

Autowash Partners recently added car wash operations in Fayetteville and Bentonville and will soon open three in Texas. This year Autowash Partners, with a location at 2823 Creek Drive in Jonesboro, is coordinating with Out of the Dark drug-prevention program for fund-raisers and with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Our local manager, Kurt Smith, has done a great job in helping coordinate our efforts,” said Renee England, owner with partner David England. “Local friends like Skip Mooney and Cathy Frans will be assisting us with the OOTD efforts to raise awareness and funds.” Other locations in Arkansas are in Fayetteville, Heber Springs and Bentonville. The company’s new Web site, www.theautowash .com, will allow customers to go online to buy car washes and receive discounts. Autowash also participates in fund-raisers for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas and March of Dimes.

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Professionals earn honors, add services

JONESBORO — Jonesboro professionals earned high recognition and certifications, expanded services and took on more projects last year.

Jones & Co. Ltd.

Jones & Co. Ltd. is expanding the firm’s practice in non-profit and governmental accounting and auditing, firm administrator Rita Reed said. “These entities are receiving additional governmental funding such as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requiring additional accounting and audit work in accordance with OMB Circular A133,” she said. The firm has also added a bi-weekly electronic newsletter and a Facebook presence and has continued its move toward a totally paperless environment by offering client records on CD. The company Web site is in the process of being updated to include client portals, and after April 15 “Lunch and Learn” seminars will be offered for various groups. Manager Cheryl Deen attained the designation of certified specialist in estate planning last year and is the only one with the designation in Ar-

kansas, Reed said. Kyle Windmeyer, also a firm manager, became a certified valuation analyst, while paraprofessional Linda Harvey achieved 30 years of service, and firm administrator Rita Reed and manager Tammy Griffey each reached 25 years of service. Most recently manager Charlott Jones was recognized in the March 2011 issue of AY Magazine, a Little Rock publication, as one of Arkansas’ most powerful women in 2011. Jones & Co., 501 Southwest Drive, in Jonesboro offers tax preparation and planning, audit services, business valuations, cost segregation studies, and various bookkeeping, business consulting and financial services. The firm, established in 1975, is owned by Hal White, Sherry Stringer, Brent Stidman and Jeremy Watson. For more information call 935-2871 or visit www .jonescpa.com.

Jim Maddox Architect Jim Maddox Architect Inc., 402 South Main St., Jonesboro, established in 1968, and its sister firm deMX, established in 2004 and run by son Tim Maddox in Fayetteville,

have always had close ties, said the younger Maddox. “In August of last year two of Dad’s CAD technicians left the office to create their own drafting firm. To help pick up the slack, both offices began working together on a daily basis,” Maddox said. “At this point we truly function as one office, though we are still legally two separate businesses.” Tim Maddox also is vice president of the Jonesboro firm. Technology has allowed this long-distance collaboration, including the Revit architectural modeling software the firms currently use. Both architects have emphasized using materials in their designs that are native to or manufactured in the region. In Northwest Arkansas this includes native stone, while in Northeast Arkansas brick is more prevalent. Recently completed projects in Northeast Arkansas include the Greenbriar Methodist Church fellowship hall, City of Dell fire station and Highland School District science lab. Currently in the works is the United Cerebral Palsy’s transitional housing complex

Families Inc. grows, opens new corporate facility in ’10

JONESBORO — The growth of Families Inc. Counseling Services in 2010, its 10-year anniversary, led it to the opening of its new corporate facility at 1815 Pleasant Grove Road, which contains the company’s largest outpatient clinic, psychological services, and facility and administrative offices. The company has also built a new outpatient facility in Osceola; moved to new facilities in Jacksonville and Searcy; added five schools to its list of schools with which it is contracted to provide services; and added Angie Elizandro, Ph.D., in Jonesboro and Adam Beaton, Ph.D., in the Searcy-Jacksonville area to its staff of psychologists. Families Inc., a JCAHO accredited private counseling agency owned by Joy Davis, offers therapeutic services to aid individuals and families throughout Northeast, North Central and Central Arkansas. Services include psychiatric med-management and consultation, psychological evaluations, individual therapy, school-based services and play therapy. It also offers mental health paraprofessional intervention. The company, employing 300, has satellite outpatient clinics in Ash Flat, Jacksonville, Mountain Home, Osceola, Paragould, Pocahontas, Searcy, Trumann and Walnut Ridge.

Helping in the community

Families Inc. Counseling Services worked last year to sponsor a successful Child Abuse Prevention 5K runwalk that raised about $9,000 for the NEA Children’s Advocacy Center. It also partnered with Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Department at Allen Park and eight school districts to provide summer programs for children; provided eight mental health educational programs, primarily in Jonesboro; and implemented systemwide Electronic Medical Records in June.

The company will expand its services in Northeast Arkansas this year by doubling the number of school districts and children participating in its summer programs. Families Inc. has begun providing after-school programs and will expand that throughout its coverage area this year. The company’s focus continues to be providing comprehensive, flexible and quality mental-health outpatient services in homes, schools and the clinic. Principal officers are: Mark Thurman, chief executive officer; Dr. Elmo Diaz, medical director; Bob Puckett, director of human resources; Dawn Layer, director of marketing; and Joe Branch, Jonesboro clinical supervisor. Three members of the staff who have been certified in trauma focused cognitive behavior therapy, a national certification sponsored by University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences through Arkansas Building Effective Services for Trauma. The therapy is an evidence-based treatment approach to help children and their caretakers overcome trauma-related difficulties. Families Inc. provides internships to more than 30 undergraduate and graduate counseling and social work students, participates in the statewide use of Youth Outcomes Questionnaire and partners with Children’s Advocacy Centers throughout its area to provide services to children who may have been abused.

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Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Charlott Jones, a certified public accountant, is shown at her desk at Jones & Co. in Jonesboro, where she is the tax manager. Jones was named one of Arkansas’ most at Stadium Boulevard and Fox Meadow Lane in Jonesboro. Over the last year Tim Maddox has won three University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture Alumni Design Awards, one in 2010 and two in 2011; an American Institute of Architects Design Award in 2010; and was named one of 21 “New Faces in Southern Style” by Garden and Gun Magazine, a national publication. Jim Maddox Architect may be reached at 9353813. For more information on deMX visit www .demxarch.com.

powerful women for 2011 in the March edition of AY Magazine, a Little Rock publication.

Stuck Associates Stuck Associates, 328 South Church St. in Jonesboro has launched a new look by changing its logo and updating to a more user-friendly Web site which features current projects and renderings. The firm has also established a presence in social media to better reach those interested in the firm, Marketing Director Michael Holmes said in a recent press release. The firm is also proud to have two employees graduate the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of

Commerce Leadership Jonesboro program. It has also welcomed John Mixon as its newest architect, bringing the current employment to 20. In the last year the firm completed projects for clients including the Jonesboro School District, Greene County Tech School District, St. Bernards Medical Center, the City of Jonesboro, Iberia Bank and Arkansas State University Regional Farmers Market. For more information on Stuck Associates, call 932-4271 or visit www .stuckarch.com.

Roundup Music Show refurbishes facilities BROOKLAND — The Roundup Music Show completed a large refurbishing project in 2010 that will benefit its patrons and area churches. Owners Jerry and Brenda Williams updated the Roundup’s theater seating. “All seats were replaced with comfy cushioned chairs with cup holders,” said Amber Jones, the Williams’ granddaughter, who helps them with

Charles M. Mooney, Sr.

some aspects of the business. More than 600 seats were removed, and most were donated to area churches. Moving into 2011, the Roundup intends to keep admission and concession prices affordable. Patrons who enjoy country music, bluegrass, old time rock ’n’ roll, Southern gospel or blues can expect consistent prices this year. “We know that as people are trying to save money,

Charles M. Mooney, Jr.

James Barr

they are looking for inexpensive entertainment that is close to home,” Jones said. She added that the location of the theater, between Jonesboro and Paragould, draws customers from both cities and smaller towns in Northeast Arkansas and Missouri. “In 2010 the Roundup was pleased to celebrate 15 successful years in its current location,” Jones said.

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Cable, phone, communications businesses expand BY WAYLON HARRIS SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — There was plenty of shaking going on in the local communications industry last year. From new digs and services to company mergers and new technology, area businesses seem poised to stay ahead of the times.

Suddenlink

At Suddenlink Communications in Jonesboro, local customers who seek the convenience of multiple services on one bill may have noticed the newly remodeled retail store at 1520 South Caraway Road. There customers enter a lobby full of vibrant colors and interactive displays demonstrating the communication company’s offerings. With about 60 employees for its Jonesboro operations and 5,200 nationwide, Suddenlink Communications is the seventh-largest cable operator in the United States. But Suddenlink services don’t stop with cable service. A leader in cable television, Internet and phone service, Suddenlink added a new feature for Jonesboro customers last year — home security, company officials said. “While earlier versions of Suddenlink Security had been offered in some Texas communities for more than 25 years, the new technology brought to Jonesboro customers offers the latest technology, including the ability to monitor property remotely and get e-mail, text or phone alerts,” said LaDawn Fuhr, Suddenlink Mid-South regional manager of community and government relations. Subscribers of Suddenlink’s cable and Internet services probably noticed a change in the last year, too.

Waylon Harris | The Sun

Georgia Richardson of Jonesboro (left) speaks to Kendra Washington, customer service representative for Suddenlink The addition of more high-definition channels, including the NFL Network HD and NFL RedZone HD, and Video on Demand, a watch-whenyou-want service available to digital cable subscribers, came in 2010. Internet subscribers are seeing quicker speeds, and Fuhr said faster Internet speeds are coming this year, thanks to the company’s nationwide investment program Project Imagine. Project Imagine is a 3-year companywide program seeking $350 million of capital investments “above and beyond” the company’s traditional spending levels. “Project Imagine was responsible for bringing the faster Internet speeds and enhanced video services unveiled this past year,” Fuhr said. “In [2011] Project Imagine is scheduled to bring further enhancements and faster Internet speeds to Jonesboro.”

Ritter-Optus Ritter Communications, an area provider of communications services to business and residential customers in Northeast and North Cen-

Communications in Jonesboro, on March 17 at the company’s Stadium Boulevard location.

tral Arkansas, is close to completing its fiberoptic network for Jonesboro businesses, said Kristie Waddell, project coordinator-business division with Ritter Communications. Waddell said the network will provide unlimited broadband capacity with connection speeds up to 100 megabytes per second and “has a significant impact on area economic growth. “This project places Ritter in the unique position of being the only provider to build and provide this type of communications network in the area,” Waddell said. In May Ritter completed its acquisition of the Jonesboro retail division of Optus Inc., a supplier of new and refurbished business telephone systems. Optus marketing coordinator John Honda said the company was returning to its core by divesting its field offices in Jonesboro, Little Rock, Texarkana, Dallas and Houston. “Optus has partnered with leading organizations in each of these regions and will serve as a distributor to them,” Honda said. “We main-

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tain a vested interest in each of the customers who have transitioned to our partners. ... “Today Optus is more focused than ever on the distribution business we were built on.” Honda noted the continued investment in the communities in which it operates. “We plan to strengthen our Reseller Channel and major accounts further in 2011 by building more relationships across the country,” Honda said. “In order to meet our goals, several new employees were added in the second half of 2010, as well as six new sales and service personnel thus far in 2011.” “This partnership is great news for anyone who owns a business in Jonesboro or Northeast Arkansas,” Ritter President Paul Waits said in a company news release. “We have literally taken the best part of one company and combined it with the best part of another. It’s a win-win situation for all involved, and we couldn’t be happier about it.”

AT&T AT&T cellular phone customers probably noticed a recent increase in their mobile devices’ data transfer speeds, thanks to the newly implemented AT&T 3G network in NEA, which offers blazing data transfer speeds compared to the communication company’s 2G — or EDGE — network. “Seventy-five percent of what we do now didn’t exist 25 years ago,” said Eddie Drilling, president of AT&T Arkansas. He said that since 2008 the company has spent more than $500 million upgrading its Arkansas service network. Once a leader in the landline telephone service industry, AT&T has evolved with the times, Drilling said. While users once depended on single, home telephone service, Drilling said as technology evolves, people need access to wireless networks from a wide variety of devices, such as cellular phones, digital tablets and netbooks. Steve Gray, vice president and general manager of the company’s

Arkansas and Oklahoma divisions, said AT&T has kept up with technology as it advances. Much of that technology revolves around transmitting data, Gray said. He said there has been an 8,000 percent increase in data transmissions over the last four years. “Not very long ago, nobody text messaged,” Gray said during a recent announcement. “How many of you sent a text today?” Gray said AT&T transmits half of the United States’ broadband wireless data, and in 2011 AT&T will transmit 700 billion text messages. AT&T also announced in late March the acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom. The $39 billion purchase includes a payment of $25 billion, with the difference to be paid using AT&T stock, giving Deutsche Telekom up to 8 percent equity ownership of AT&T. The acquisition is still subject to regulatory approval, but if completed, AT&T said the deal commits the company to a “significant expansion of robust 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) deployment to 95 percent of the U.S. population to reach an additional 46.5 million Americans beyond current plans.” “This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, said.

Infotech-Wellsco In July 2010 East Hartford, Conn.-based Infotech Enterprises completed its purchase of Wellsco Inc., a Paragould telecommunications engineering company, for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition

of Wellsco, Infotech Enterprises gained additional “experience and expertise including engineering, drafting, data management, staffing, product management and inspection (for construction and IT-related services) within the telecom industry,” said Jennifer Davila, marketing manager for Infotech. Davila said the group is involved in numerous ongoing projects involving maintenance of “humongous” geospatial databases “involving the entire globe, data accumulation and transformation for organizations involved in publishing critical data and supporting governmental organizations,” according to a company news release. Founded in 1991, Infotech is an international firm that offers product, network and content engineering services and solutions to customers in aerospace, rail, automotive, energy, hi-tech, consumer medical, utilities, telecom and government. At the time of the acquisition, Infotech Chairman and Managing Director BVR Mohan Reddy said the purchase would not affect the Paragould office’s staff. “We don’t anticipate any staff reduction, and there are no plans to move any of the jobs outside of Paragould and Greene County,” Reddy said. J i m We l l s , f o r m e r Wellsco president, joined Infotech’s senior management team and said at the time of the acquisition that Infotech was an excellent partner that would strengthen the company’s leadership position within its markets. More than 180 are employed at the Paragould location. Wellsco has additional offices in California, Florida, Illinois and India.

Waylon Harris | The Sun

From left, Alan McVey, executive director of the Delta Center for Economic Development at Arkansas State University, and Len Frey, dean of the ASU College of Business, talk to Eddie Drilling, president of AT&T Arkansas, after the company formally announced 3G network service availability in Northeast Arkansas on March 15 at the ASU Cooper Alumni Center.

Coming soon!


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BY BRIAN SMITH SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — The winds of change took two Northeast Arkansas radio stations to different places on the FM dial. KIYS-FM, a current hit radio station, signed off from 101.9 FM on Sept. 10 and signed on to 101.7 FM on Sept. 13. Adult contemporary station KJBX-FM is now Mix 106.3 after it switched from 106.7 FM on Feb. 3. Trey Stafford, general manager of the Jonesboro Radio Group, said the changes can be traced to November 2006, when San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications Inc. announced plans to sell 448 of its stations nationwide. The sale included four of its five stations in the Jonesboro market — AM stations KBTM and KNEA, and FM stations KFIN and KWHF. East Arkansas Broadcasters, owned by Bobby Caldwell, bought all four in 2007. “Clear Channel did not sell KIYS because they knew that, technically, they could move the station to Memphis, relicense it to a different city and make it part of their Memphis cluster,” Stafford said. “But there was time that would elapse before they could do that, so they ‘leased’ the station to EAB during the interim.” Stafford said the deal was called a local marketing agreement — in effect, East Arkansas Broadcasters operated the 101.9 FM frequency for Clear Channel until it could move the station from the nation’s 279th-largest market to the 48thlargest. “Late last year Clear Channel was prepared to make the move to Memphis ...,” he said. “EAB had already prepared for this move by filing with the [Federal Communications Commission] an application to move another station that EAB owned, KRLW-FM in Walnut Ridge, from 106.3 to 101.7 using the same transmitter site that would be vacated when KIYS moved.” When KIYS signed off on Sept. 10, Clear Channel started KWNW, Radio Now Memphis, broadcasting on 100,000 watts on 101.9 FM in Crawfordsville, about 20 miles west of Memphis. The Jonesboro market kept the Kiss-FM brand when it moved to 101.7.

“Unfortunately for EAB, the power for the station is half what KIYS was at 101.9,” Stafford said. “That move was the second domino in the equation. Once KRLW vacated 106.3, that opened spectrum space for Mix to move to 106.3 and increase its power and coverage area. Mix vacating 106.7 has probably opened up an opportunity for someone else, but I’m not sure what.” The changes in the market allowed Mix to go from 6,000 watts of broadcasting power to 25,000. “We took down the top 70 feet of tower and replaced it with stronger tower sections to hold a more robust, heavier antenna,” Stafford said. “The antenna for Mix 106.7 was a 3-bay antenna; the new antenna for Mix 106.3 is a 6-bay antenna — much heavier. We also bought a new transmitter that produces higher power output. The upgrade was about a $170,000 investment.” Stafford said the switch to the new frequency has “gone great.” “We put a lot of time, energy and effort into planning all logistics so that we could have a solid three weeks to heavily promote the move,” he said. “Our goal was that not one single listener would miss the fact that we were moving frequencies. I think for the most part we accomplished that. ... We are getting great reports, not just from increased building penetration in the Jonesboro area, but new expanded listener reports from Paragould and other areas beyond

Name: East Arkansas Broadcasters Business: Radio stations broadcasting on 970-AM, 1230-AM, 95.9FM, 101.7-FM and 107.9-FM Key personnel: Bobby Caldwell, owner; Phil Jamison, production director Headquarters: 407 West Parker Road, Jonesboro Telephone: 934-5000; fax, 9323814 Web site: www.kissjonesboro.com, www.kfin.com

QuickINFO | Name: Jonesboro Radio Group (Saga Communications of Arkansas) Previously: Triple FM Radio Group until 2009 Business: FM radio stations broadcasting on 92.7 (HD-3), 100.5, 104.9 (HD-1), 106.7 and 107.5 (HD-2) Key personnel: Trey Stafford, general manager Headquarters: 314 Union St., Jonesboro Telephone: 933-8800; fax, 9330403 Web site: www.jonesbororadio group.com the coverage area with the former facility.” As for the future, Stafford said the station plans to get out in the field more often. “We have added some new remote equipment, and we will be adding some new remote broadcast equipment to support our livebroadcast-from-retailers effort, an effort we believe is the strongest in the market,” he said. bsmith@jonesborosun.com

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Bill Pressly speaks on-air in the station for The Mix 106.3, KJBX-FM at Jonesboro on March 18.

Pakmail producing printed products JONESBORO — Pakmail spent 2010 assisting customers in design and production of all print media, from business cards to brochures, banners and posters. In August the store moved to its current location at 361 Southwest Drive. Plans include helping customers market themselves or their businesses and helping set them up for success. Pakmail is a packing, shipping and business solutions center specializing in custom packing, crating and worldwide shipping logistics, according to its Web site, www.weshipjonesboro .com. Owned by Tim and Dana Kincade, Pakmail is part of the Pakmail Franchise System that has more than 500 stores worldwide. The owners bought the store in 2007. Throughout 2010 Pakmail added 116 rental mailboxes, added a state-

of-the-art, wide-format printer; operated with a fully functional bindery department; expanded its retail section; and offered personalized gift wrap. It received the 2010 Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Franchise Association. Services offered include packaging; shipping, as Pakmail is an authorized shipping center for all major carriers; and print, from custom-designed business cards to banners and brochures and from “concept to application.” Pakmail received the franchise President’s Award in 2010. Tim Kincade is a Franchise System Advisory Council member, representing the Southeast U.S. region, and was voted vice president of the Jonesboro Area Business Networking International Chapter. Pakmail currently employs four. For more information, call 931-5151.

CNI keeps building in area JONESBORO — Construction Network Inc. worked over the past year on the Valley View multipurpose facility, St. Bernards Hospice House, Rowe & Rowe Dentistry and the remodeling of the Arkansas State University Student Union. CNI is located at 6009 Dalton Farmer Drive. Owned by George Stem, Sean Stem and Ryan Kibler, CNI offers specialized commercial construction for clients in any industry. In 2010 it adopted more of a “teamwork” approach among its employees, and budget items on overhead expenses were delegated to employees, all of whom took responsibility for the costs, company officials reported. The reorganization of

management systems has “brought the employees closer together and helped the work atmosphere,” said Brittni Wright, marketing director. Soon CNI plans to focus on repeat clientele, customer service and satisfaction in order-to-build relationships. CNI, employing 54, claims a work-friendly environment. Project managers are Perry Winn, Howard Ballard, Brandon Erwin and Casey Caples. Caples received metal roofing certification from McElroy Metals Inc., and CNI received the 2010 award for Outstanding Work from a craftsperson from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas due to CNI’s craftsmanship on the Looney Tavern project.

aun Maxine H etic Studio man Cosm Merle Nor Suite 303 d, an Highl 3000 East 6539\ 140 72 AR Jonesboro, Owners on our top numbers t. ve run the lis e’ e W ! th ns latio d you’re on Congratu ar 2010, an s for the ye slides to be and Studio a series of upreparing e top 10 St re e’ th w , ng ar yi identif each ye the Studio nvention As we do Co ow al sh ill nu w art our 80th An ated ries. The ch the estim shown at ral catego only) and ch of seve from us. s and State se ity ha dios in ea (C rc n on pu me, locatio 10, based Owner’s na sales for 20 Los etic retail ng you in total cosm ard to seei look forw e W S! N TIO NGRATULA Again, CO truly, Your’s very Angeles.

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Downtown comes alive with businesses, festival BY CHRIS SWINDLE AND ANTHONY CHILDRESS SUN STAFF WRITERS

JONESBORO — The good times continued to roll in Downtown Jonesboro in 2010 with the openings of new restaurants, some of which also offer live entertainment, and the first standalone Downtown Jonesboro BBQ Festival providing meat, music and merriment.

Godsey’s Grill

At 226 South Main St., Godsey’s Grill provides a menu of all-American favorites including hamburgers, steaks, and the restaurant’s signature turkey, ham and pulled pork sandwiches. Owner Lisa Godsey said all meat is smoked on the premises, and the business also features a wood-fired pizza oven. “We turn out some absolutely fabulous pizzas here,” Godsey said. Godsey and business partner Gray Hurt also opened Godsey’s Gourmet in June. The new business focuses on catering and special events. “What we have done there is food to go,” Godsey said. She said the business offers such items as deli fare, salads, casseroles and baked goods. “What we want is to get more people to have parties at their homes.”

Sue’s Kitchen The reopening of Sue’s Kitchen at 524 South Church St. was a true success story for Downtown Jonesboro in 2010. Sue’s originally opened in 1984 in the 300 block of South Church Street, but it closed 10 years later because of family health issues. Owner John Williams, son of original owner Sue Williams, described the restaurant as a gourmet food shop.

Skinny J’s James Best of Jonesboro opened Skinny J’s in Jonesboro in late 2010 at 226 South Main St. Some nights of the week, live music can be heard at Skinny J’s. When there is no live music, patrons hear a variety of classic and southern rock songs through the building’s sound system.

Cregeen’s Irish Pub With an Irish-themed menu, Cregeen’s Irish Pub opened in Jonesboro in June at 201 South Main St. Musicians provide live entertainment about two nights a week, mostly on the weekends.

Barbecue festival On Nov. 6 the Downtown Jonesboro BBQ Festival was held for the first time

as a standalone event. In 2009 the festival was held as part of the city’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. “We had as many downtown today as we did last year,” organizer Tim McCall said the day of the festival. “There’s been thousands; I guarantee you that.” Forty-eight contestants participated in the barbecue contest, up from 32 in 2009, and the best of the best was chosen by Memphis in May-sanctioned judges. The festival also included music by local bands, inflatable bounce houses for children, and vendor booths that featured food, arts and crafts. Drawings were also held for prizes. Jonesboro musician Patrick Dailey — the main songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist for local band Plain Meanness — said the changes downtown make the area, and the city, more inviting for performers. His band performed at the barbecue festival and has also performed at downtown venues such as Brickhouse and Skinny J’s. “It wasn’t that many years ago that there was nothing going on downtown,” he said. “Now there’s many places that you can play.”

Sam Jones IV After calling Austin, Texas, home, contem-

Graycen Colbert | The Sun

Adam Barnard of the band Starroy performs during the Downtown BBQ Festival on Nov. 6 in Jonesboro. porary artist Sam Jones IV and wife Shelli Wood bought a Main Street property to convert into The Sam Jones IV Gallery and their loft home. The gallery officially opened in April. “We really like being downtown,” Jones said. “The feeling is good, and we see Jonesboro as a nice fit.” Affordability and quality of life also drew the pair to Northeast Arkansas. The couple has enjoyed the opportunity to do new things, such as being a part of the practice of having downtown

businesses remain open later the first Thursday of each month as a means of bringing in more visitors.

Other changes Other changes have dotted the downtown landscape, from Gearhead Outfitters purchasing the former Winter Wonderland building on Main Street for expansion to new bicycle parking stations (constructed by students from the NEA Career and Technical Center housed on the Jonesboro High School campus). New tenants arrive regu-

larly in the district’s private loft units, and business owners report seeing more foot traffic in the area. Parking is becoming more expansive, while city officials and residents alike look forward to seeing completion of a new overpass linking Arkansas State University with the downtown sector and thereby enabling a steadier, more efficient flow of vehicles while bypassing railroad tracks along Caraway Road leading into the school. cswindle@jonesborosun.com

Sales taxes mostly up in Northeast Arkansas for 2010 BY KARIN HILL SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — Sales tax revenues made a slow but steady rebound throughout most of Northeast Arkansas last year, with the majority of cities and counties showing improvement over 2009’s steep drops. Craighead County ended 2010 with an overall increase for the year. December saw the ninth consecutive rise in sales tax receipts for the county, and Jonesboro’s separate 1 percent tax showed an increase for the sixth straight month. Revenue from the countywide tax totaled $15,599,426 for the year, up by 2.97 percent, county Treasurer Russell Patton III said. The year-end city total was just $18,000 below the 2009 total, or a 0.13 percent decrease, despite better numbers for most of the year. “We actually brought in a little more than the year before, even though we had that big hit in March,” Patton said. Both the county and state took major financial hits last March after the state Department of Finance and Administration said it would have to deduct more than $300,000

each from the county and Jonesboro city sales taxes to cover rebates for area businesses. Given the option to take the deduction all at once or over four months, the county chose the former, while the city gave up its share over time. Patton said while those rebate adjustments continue to occur, they aren’t making a significant impact like they did a year ago. He is optimistic about the coming year, but forecasts remain flat. “I hope it increases,” he said. Revenue continued to climb into 2011 as retailers reported stronger sales during the 2010 Christmas shopping period than in the past few years. Those revenues showed up in cities and counties in February. But the 2010 Census changed the way some funds were distributed. Thanks to a significant jump in population, Jonesboro now receives a 2-percent bigger share of the county’s sales tax. In February that amounted to $35,000 more than what the city would have received with the old census figures. The county’s portion decreased nearly 2 percent, while the nine other cities in the county will see

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Tina French shops for plants at Harmony Gardens in Jonesboro on March 19. slight variations based on their populations. Bono, Brookland and Monette will receive more money based on population. Cash and Egypt are virtually unchanged, and the remaining cities have smaller shares. Jonesboro’s total for February did not yet reflect the new half-cent tax increase for public safety. Voters approved the temporary 4-year tax in August, and it went into effect Jan. 1. However, the city won’t receive those revenues until late this month. On May 10 residents of three Craighead County towns will vote on separate attempts to pass a 1-cent sales tax to fund road, drainage, water system and other infrastruc-

ture projects. Aldermen in Brookland, Bay and Bono passed ordinances in their respective council meetings calling for the tax increase be proposed in a special election. Officials said they chose the sales tax route to avoid increasing water and sewage fees and give the cities’ residents the opportunity to share a portion of the expense with travelers passing through their cities. Bono residents would have been asked to decide the fate of a 1-cent sales tax in that city last November, but supporters were unable to get onto the ballot. Lake City voters approved a 1-cent sales tax last November. Half of the

money goes toward street repair, and the other half goes to water and sewer improvements. Mississippi County continues to benefit from a sales tax for economic improvement, officials said. The half-cent tax approved in 2003 and re-approved earlier this year has helped the county to keep existing industry and attract new companies. Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House recently reported that sales tax numbers are slightly ahead of projection so far this year. Randolph County voters rejected a half-cent sales tax increase for the second time in three years in November. The money would have been used to prop up the county general and sheriff’s budgets. Over the next couple of years the county faces several options including cutting services, laying off employees, enacting a property tax increase or taking money out of the county’s perpetual savings account to meet budgets. A half-cent Greene County sales tax passed in 2000 expired last October, leaving the rate there at 1 percent for the last distribution month, December. Revenues for 2010 were just $9,000 below

2009 levels despite about a $200,000 drop from November to December. County Treasurer Debbie Cross has suggested either a half-cent or a 1cent sales tax increase to help solve the overcrowding problem at the county jail. Revenues from sales tax in some other area cities and counties in 2010, with sales tax rate and percent change from 2009: • Blytheville — 1.25 percent — $3,541,938; up 5.8 percent • Newport — 1.5 percent — $1,916,066; down 1.8 percent • Paragould — 1 percent — $4,122,923; up 1.2 percent • Trumann — 1 percent — $792,796; up 0.3 percent • Greene County — 1 percent — $7,076,276; down 0.14 percent • Jackson County — 1.5 percent — $2,879,834; up 0.8 percent • Lawrence County — 1.5 percent — $2,334,540; up 4.1 percent • Mississippi County — 2 percent — $12,430,121; up 6.3 percent • Poinsett County — 1.25 percent — $2,723,490; up 2.6 percent The state sales tax rate is 6 percent. khill@jonesborosun.com

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Chamber keeps busy even in rough economy BY WAYLON HARRIS SUN STAFF WRITER

PARAGOULD — The Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce got its feet wet with several projects in 2010. From presenting its fourth-annual Chamber Showcase to offering more than 200 jobs to the public at its first Paragould Regional Job Fair, the organization, which serves Paragould and surrounding areas in Greene County, had plenty to keep officials busy despite a sluggish economy, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Economic Development Sue McGowan said. Providing services for more than 600 members, the staff of five at the Chamber also looked to the future in 2010. The creation of the Paragould Young Professionals, a group committed to the growing city’s

young professional demographic, filled a gap. The group was formed to offer professional development seminars, volunteer activities and after-hours events to members ages 21-39, said Emily Still, communications manager. The group also formed a nonprofit roundtable to create discussion among leaders of nonprofit organizations. To end 2010, the Chamber completed a successful “Shop Paragould First” campaign that Still said was designed by the Chamber’s business development community to encourage local spending. At the first job fair, McGowan said a sluggish economy helped pull employers and potential employees from areas outside of Paragould and Greene County. “With the downturn in the economy, there were

a sufficient number of jobs available that we were able to draw from a multi-county area for the available jobs and also for those looking for jobs,” McGowan said. “There were several other counties that sent employers looking for employees outside of the Paragould area.” And McGowan said the Chamber is gearing up for its second job fair, which she thinks will be more successful than the first. “We’re seeing an increase in the employment in several of our businesses,” McGowan said. “The inquiries from the retail standpoint have increased substantially.” As the economy improves, McGowan said 2011 is off to a good start. She referenced additions to the staff at Anchor Packaging in Paragould last year. And she said the announcement that American Railcar Industries

QuickINFO | Name: Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO: Sue McGowan Location: 300 West Court St., Paragould Mailing address: P.O. Box 124, Paragould, AR 72450 Telephone: 236-7684 Web site: http://www .paragould.org plans to add 500-700 jobs at its facilities by the end of the year is an encouraging indication economic conditions are improving. “We’re positive about 2011 just by the number of jobs that are becoming available,” McGowan said. “I think we’re going to see that continue to be a positive impact.” The PRCC will host its annual banquet Tuesday at the Paragould Community Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. for a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. This year’s theme is “Paragould’s Shining Stars.” Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will deliver the keynote address. wharris@jonesborosun.com

Many Greene County businesses and organizations participated in the fifth annual Paragould Chamber of Commerce Showcase at the Paragould Community Center in February.

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LawCo organization promotes businesses BY FRANK M. WITOWSKI JR. SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WALNUT RIDGE — The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce is involved in a number of projects to help promote existing businesses and bring additional businesses to Lawrence County. The Chamber recently held a ribbon cutting and Business-After-Hours event for Home Medical Equipment and Supplies, which moved to a new facility. The Chamber is working with the tourism committee to promote the Rock ’n’ Roll Highway tourism project, which includes a life-size sculpture of the Beatles in front of the Walnut Ridge Airport. Chamber Execu- QuickINFO | tive Secretary Kathy Bradley said the un- Name: Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce veiling of the Beatles sculpture will be Sept. Board chairman: Michael Montgomery 18 at the airport. A d d i t i o n a l l y, t h e Location: 109 Southwest Front St., Walnut Ridge Chamber will host a marketing strategy Mailing Address: P.O. Box 842, Walnut Ridge seminar, “Five StrateAR 72476 gies for Social Media” May 12 and is planning Telephone: 886-3232 to host a business expo Web site: www.lawco chamber.org in the fall. The Chamber held its quarterly meeting in Powhatan March 24. Bradley said the Chamber also hosts the annual Iron Mountain Festival in its seventh year in 2011 and scheduled for Oct. 27. The festival includes musical entertainment, train rides, an animal exhibit and much more. Bradley said the Chamber is working with the Intermodal Authority, county leaders and the tourism committee to stimulate the local economy. “New leadership within the chamber board of directors and county government is proving to show exciting times coming to the life of the county,” Bradley said. “Everyone working together for the betterment of Lawrence County is being seen not only in the direction of the Chamber but the county as well. Moving forward together as a team equals success.” Bradley said the Chamber has 195 members. But the chamber incorporated some individual memberships into the place of business where they work, which accounts for losing a few memberships. “We gained some members and lost some, but we are still holding our own,” she said. Bradley said Caring Hands Hospice and the Richey Insurance Agency are among new businesses that joined the recently. She said some existing businesses also joined. The Chamber Board of Directors is comprised of 13 members. Chamber board officers include Chairman Michael Montgomery; Past Chairwoman Lorra Whitmire; Vice Chairwoman Ashley Burris; Chair-elect Kari Shanks; and member at large Brett Cooper. Bradley has the only staff position at the Chamber, but she said the Chamber is trying to raise funds to hire a Chamber Economic Development Director.

Cavenaugh sees rise in auto sales WALNUT RIDGE — Cavenaugh Auto Group weathered the storm in Northeast Arkansas last year, said Fran Cavenaugh, the group’s chief financial officer. Cavenaugh operates a GM franchise dealership and a Chrysler dealership in Walnut Ridge and a Ford-Lincoln dealership and Hyundai store in Jonesboro, all of which, she said, have stayed positive during the crisis the nation battled. “Things are going well for us,” she said. “There has been a pick-up in sales. Not a big increase, but we can’t complain.” Consumers have started buying again at all of the Cavenaugh dealerships, as there is an apparent lessening of the crunch that embattled the nation for the past few years, causing automobile manufacturers to bankrupt, sell and cut back on production, she said. Cavenaugh said Ar-

kansas and particularly Northeast Arkansas have weathered the “depression” well. “Things have gone well for us here, and consumers are gaining in confidence,” she said. “Locally, most people have jobs and have been working steadily but have put off bigger purchases, including automobiles, and now they are ready to buy.” “We think the manufacturers that are coming out of bankruptcy are doing better and have a better lineup of vehicles that people want,” Cavenaugh said. She said that at this time Ford and Hyundai have hybrid vehicles, and she expects GM to announce a hybrid. The changes evident at this time include the fact that before the crisis, domestic brands were heavy on trucks and SUVs, and now they all offer a wider range of smaller and more economical vehicles the public is now buying.

While the Cavenaughs are not certain about some aspects of Chrysler, they agree the brand is still selling well and expect the recent merger with Fiat bodes well for the future. In the past year GM discontinued the Pontiac brand, and Ford ended production of Mercurys, which she described as sad but probably necessary in the current situation in the industry. Consumers have taken to the new restyled Hyundai Sonata and now the hybrid version, she said, and they are beginning to see stronger sales in Chevrolet’s new Cruze compact sedan as the brand has started its “Chevrolet Strong” campaign that has caught a lot of interest. “As gasoline prices continue to rise, we will see increased sales of hybrid models and others that get higher fuel mileage,” she said.

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Chamber works to ensure city’s growth, success BY CURT HODGES SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — This is a community more than 67,000 people call home. It is a growing, thriving community that provides homes, jobs and opportunities such as medical facilities, recreation, entertainment, dining, shopping — the same kinds of opportunities that almost any large city can provide. There are many reasons Jonesboro has become the leading city in Northeast Arkansas, Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce officials said. The chamber itself is one of those reasons, not just the chamber itself, but the leadership that the chamber has provided through its membership over the decades. Generally, the same people who have been leaders in the community are the same ones who have worked through the Chamber of Commerce to assure Jonesboro had the business, industry and other amenities to attract industry and jobs and assure the community remained a good place for people to live, work, shop and play, officials said. Participation in leadership opportunities through the chamber continues to grow, said Cari White, chief operating officer. “Our leadership classes are full, attendance in the Jonesboro Young Professional Network’s recent conference was up, and it appears we will have more booths rented for the annual Business Expo,” White said. This year’s Business Expo will be on April 7 at Arkansas State University Convocation Center.

QuickINFO | Name: Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Chef executive officer, president: Mark Young Chief operating officer: Cari White Membership director: Mandy Cook Location: 1709 East Nettleton Ave., Jonesboro, AR 72401 Phone: 932-6691, Fax: 933-5758 Web site: www.jones borochamber.org The Expo theme is “Our Chamber Rocks” and will feature rock ‘n’ roll music. The expo is about more than fun, White said, even though fun is part of it. It is also about introducing chamber members’ businesses to each other. She said a lot of members really don’t know what other members do and offer. The Expo is a way to bridge that gap. “I have had Expo participants tell me that

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Arkansas State University Jazz Band members perform at the ASU Convocation Center’s booth during the 2010 Business Expo last April 22. Dana Haggard (bottom right), a marketing intern for the ASU Convocation Center, dethey got back more than the price of their booths through business orders from other members,” White said. The chamber works for economic development in many ways, including with local, state and national agencies, including the Arkansas Legislature and the Congress. Each year the chamber sponsors a trip to Washington to meet with the state’s Congressional delegation and tell them about the needs of the lo-

cal area, particularly as to infrastructure and highways. This year, White said, the local delegation presented specific needs for highway funding during the Washington trip. “I think the chamber leadership has done a good job helping to develop this area, and that has added to the economic stability of the region,” White said. “All of the committees work hard to make certain that the chamber stays strong.”

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Kathy Cardwell (left) of Loretta’s Catering accepts a beverage sample from Krystal Alvarado at the Coca-Cola booth during the 2010 Business Expo.

signed the booth’s 1920s speakeasy theme. The band members included Michael Newson, saxophone; Mauricio Dixon, piano; Evan Barwick, bass; and Bryan Elder, drums. Since 1970 Jonesboro has grown from a “country town” of some 27,000 residents to the metropolis that it is today with more than 60,000 residents. Each day there are several times the number of official residents in the city as people from all over NEA come to Jonesboro to work, see doctors, visit and various things available in the city. The staff of the chamber works with local, state and national organizations, including economic development organizations and the Congress, to develop, fund and implement projects that produce jobs and improve infrastructure. In his foreword on the Web site, Mark Young, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, states: “Jonesboro is a great place to live, raise a family and play. I have often been asked, what makes Jonesboro unique? The answer is simple. People making a difference make our community great and continues to drive us into the future. “The Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce is committed to making a difference through leadership, education and

economic development, which ultimately ensures the quality of life that all our residents desire. We are fortunate that we have approximately 2,000 dedicated chamber members making great things happen on a daily basis.” The chamber is the front door to a wealth of information for new and existing residents, officials said. The chamber’s board of directors is made up of 24 community leaders, the immediate past chairman of the board, the president of Jonesboro Economic Development Corporation, the chairman of Jonesboro Unlimited, the president of Jonesboro Jaycees, the president of the Jonesboro Young Professionals Network and the president of the Existing Industries Association. The chamber’s 2011 executive committee includes Beverly Nix, chairwoman; Ed Way, chairman-elect; Michael Givens, treasurer; Paul Waits, immediate past chairman; Kevan Inboden, Jonesboro Unlimited Chairman; Niel Crowson, Jonesboro Economic Development Council president.

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3 Poinsett chambers work to help business BY MICHAEL WILKEY SUN STAFF WRITER

The chambers of commerce in Poinsett County worked on a variety of projects to create jobs and build interest in their communities in 2010. The county has three chambers — the Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce, the Marked Tree Chamber of Commerce and the Trumann Chamber of Commerce — each with long and varied histories.

Trumann

The Trumann chamber worked on several infrastructure projects while rebuilding its focus, the group’s executive director said. Jackie Ross said the chamber worked with Trumann city officials on three projects — a new adult education center building, a 1.25-mile ditch near Ditch 12 and construction of a detention pond in southeast Trumann. He said chamber and city officials have worked since early 2010 to seek funding for the adult education center and the ditch project. The education center is important for the growth of businesses. “It is key for us,” Ross said. Land was donated for the center on Melton Avenue near the police station, and city and chamber officials are trying to raise or find about $600,000 for construction. He said the chamber is also attempting to grow by building interest. “We are reorganizing all of our committees with new people and are trying to get new people involved,” Ross said. The interest is already there with companies and businesses looking at the

Poinsett County town, he said. “We’ve had several people inquire,” Ross said. The town saw an increase in the number of restaurants, with several sprouting up along Arkansas 463. Ross said two long-time fast food restaurants — McDonald’s and Sonic — also moved or renovated in 2010. He said city and chamber officials are marketing the town as a bedroom community. “You may have a wife who works in Memphis and a husband who works in Jonesboro,” Ross said. “We have the new high school, and the Jonesboro Industrial Park is 10 minutes from here.”

Marked Tree Marked Tree Chamber of Commerce president Soozi Williams said her town added several new businesses since early 2010. The big news for Marked Tree came last summer when LA’s Awesome Products bought the former Mid-South Manufacturing building with plans to

create 120 jobs, she said. A new restaurant, Jerry’s Diner, opened on Elm Street, while a medical aid business, Absolute Care Management also opened. She said chamber officials are working to help existing business amid a sluggish economy. “We have been tied up with economic development. But we are trying to keep our head above water,” Williams said. She said the chamber sponsored a day to honor local police and firefighters and is working to get chamber members certified in emergency response training. A major project for this year will involve a leadership class for chamber members and an adopt-astreet program, similar to the adopt an intersection program in Jonesboro, she said.

Harrisburg The Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce moved into a new building in early 2011 but plans to move into the building began last year. The chamber, which

QuickINFO | Marked Tree Chamber of Commerce, 358-3000, www.markedtree arkansas.org Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce, 578-5466, www.harrisburg chamber.com Trumann Chamber of Commerce, 483-6424, www.trumannchamber .com Each of the chambers hosts an annual banquet to honor business owners and community leaders for their achievements during the year. never had an office, moved into the former office of deputy prosecuting attorney Martin Lilly in January. The City of Harrisburg bought the building on East Jackson Street in November. The building will house city and chamber offices, Tina Price, director of operations for the chamber, said. Chamber officials also created a new Web site that details chamber activities and businesses and links to the companies’ Web sites. She said the Web site also has a community calendar and a place where companies can list their information. mwilkey@jonesborosun.com

Michael Wilkey | The Sun

Traffic moves on West Main Street in Trumann. Several businesses have located along the road, next to U.S. 63, in recent years.

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JONESBORO — Office Interiors of Jonesboro recently completed work on major projects inside and outside of Jonesboro. The company also entered into a local partnership with the owner of Swank at Shoppes of Hilltop. Office Interiors finished work on projects such as Nordex Inc., the Arkansas State University Center for Economic Development and Donald W. Reynolds Center for Nursing at ASU, Judd Hill Center, Families Inc. Corporate Office and NEA Federal Credit Unions in Paragould and Jonesboro. Outside of Jonesboro the company finished work at Unico Bank, Paragould; US Rental Corporate Office, Dallas, Texas; US Rental Clinics in Paragould; San Antonio; West Fort Worth, Texas; and Grove, Okla.; and Burris Orthodontist in Paragould, Batesville, El Dorado and Hot Springs. “Office Interiors’ biggest investment in 2010 was our local partnership with Wade Quinn, owner of Swank at Shoppes of Hilltop,” local manager Cheryl Davis said. “We now have a 1,100-squarefoot showroom between Swank and Basset Home Furnishings.” The new showroom benefits both Office Interiors and Quinn by allowing the exterior of the architecture to be reflected in the interior spaces and create a progression of high design, Davis said. “We think your office should be more than a place where tasks are accomplished. It should reflect an environment that encourages the positive flow of people and ideas,” she said. Davis has worked with Office Interiors out of her home in Paragould for seven years. Her largest year in volume of sales was 2010, she said. The company already has projects lined up for 2011 and is ready to move ahead.

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JONESBORO — In 2010 Better Life Counseling Center got money for its Parenting Separately course. The center received United Way funding for the first time for the course that focuses on how parents can help their children remain as unharmed as possible as the family undergoes dynamic changes. In was previously offered for a fee on alternate months in Jonesboro. The funds allow the course to be offered for free monthly with a changing schedule between Jonesboro and Paragould. “BLCC is currently developing a course for the children of divorce and is seeking funding to get the program started,” executive director Wendy Cook said. The center’s children’s therapist, Lauren Orbison, has agreed to develop a curriculum for a 6-month course for children that will teach them about their legal and emotional rights, how to respond to poor parenting and provide a snapshot of what to expect in the months ahead. BLCC will also launch a community marriage workshop in 2011. “Our goal is to help build stronger marriages in NEA with the hopes that we can make this an annual event and include a national speaker in the future,” Cook said.

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Chamber officials support sales tax increase Issue goes to Cross voters in May BY MICHAEL WILKEY SUN STAFF WRITER

WYNNE — After facing two stinging sales tax defeats in 2009 Cross County Chamber of Commerce officials have worked to build new programs and help existing business and are anticipating another vote in May. Brian Thompson, the chamber’s director for external affairs, said chamber officials have regrouped after attempts to approve a 1-cent sales tax for economic development failed in March and September 2009. The March 2009 vote failed in a 807-to-678 vote, while the September vote failed by a 139-vote margin (1,343 to 1,204). Both votes were supported by voters in Wynne, while voters in Cherry Valley, Parkin and Hickory Ridge split in both elections. “Despite the two failed tax measures, we continued to operate as usual with some reduced ex-

QuickINFO | Name: Cross County Chamber of Commerce Location: Inside the Bill Thomas Building at the Technology Center for the Delta on West Falls Boulevard in Wynne Phone: 238-2601 Web site: www.cross countychamber.com

penditures in some lineitems of our budget during the past two years,� said Thompson, based in Wynne. Thompson said the thenchamber director, Aaron Stewart, left soon after the September vote. Since then Thompson has been interim director.

May vote Thompson said Wynne voters will go to the polls May 10 for a 1-cent, 5-year sales tax. If approved by voters, half of the money will go toward economic development, 37.5 percent will go toward parks and recreation, and 12.5 percent will go toward city infrastructure needs, Thompson said. He said a new Wynnebased economic development group would likely be created if city voters approve the tax. “This will likely involve the creation of a new Wynne economic development entity with a new board. However, the staff and general day-to-day operations should remain the same,� Thompson said.

Projects The chamber also worked on a pair of projects in 2010, Thompson said. The chamber graduated

Michael Wilkey | The Sun

Brian Thompson (right), Cross County Chamber of Commerce director for external affairs, shows Jan Hess, chamber director for internal affairs, information on the May its second Cross County Visionaries class last July with 10 students. The class is a partnership between the chamber and the University of Arkansas Extension Service. Thompson

said the students received leadership training from the extension service and visited several county and city leaders. He said a full-color map of Cross County was also

10 sales tax election in Wynne. Chamber officials have worked on a variety of projects in spite of two failed countywide economic development sales tax votes. developed last year and should be done by early summer. Chamber officials are also working to attract businesses to the Wynne Industrial Park, Thomp-

son said. The chamber owns 23 acres at the park and is interested in another 150 acres for possible growth, he said. mwilkey@jonesborosun.com

Convocation Center receives award for efforts to promote Jonesboro

JONESBORO — The Convocation Center at Arkansas State University received the Betty T. Sloan Promotion Award from the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2010 for its promotion of Jonesboro through numerous events. Last year 455,345 people attended events in the Convo.

Over the past few years the Convo has been host to shows and concerts by Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, The Fray, Playhouse DisneyLIVE, Jason Aldean, the Oak Ridge Boys, REO Speedwagon and Styx, TobyMac, Daughtry, Jeff Dunham, Nickelodeon Storytime LIVE, Miranda Lambert, Skillet, Casting Crowns,

the Gaither Homecoming Tour, the Harlem Globetrotters, Blake Shelton and a Lady Antebellum concert in celebration of ASU’s 100th anniversary. Every year hundreds of meetings are held with as few as 10 to as many as thousands of people. The Rotary Club of Jonesboro hosts the annu-

al Arkansas SportShow, which brought record attendance this past February, and each spring the University Heights Lions Club hosts the Jonesboro Auto Show. HMG hosts the Health and Fitness Expo, and the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Expo is held there.

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Annual summer camps include cheerleading, volleyball and boys and girls basketball. Seven area high school graduations and five ASU commencements are held at the Convo. The NEA District Fair Rodeo is held each September on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday preceding the Northeast Ar-

kansas District Fair. Lit’l Bita Christmas is held each November and brings thousands to the area to shop for holiday and gift items. During the holidays thousands gather at the Convo to watch the high schools compete in the NEA Tournament, which has been at the Convo since it first opened in 1987.

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Chamber hosts festivals, provides information New Vision Newport is a leadership class sponsored by the chamber each year. The class, which consists of area residents interested in leadership, meets monthly and learns about the

BY JUDY BEARD SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEWPORT — The Newport Area Chamber of Commerce is the place to go in Newport for information about what’s happening. Chamber Director Julie Allen takes great pride in keeping up with events and sharing the information with the public. The chamber hosts two major festivals each year, Portfest and Depot Days. This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Portfest, which is the first weekend in June each year. The first festival was in 1982 under the name Riverboat Days. The festival was created to celebrate Jackson County’s relationships with the White River and its history. Held in Jacksonport State Park, Riverboat Days was well attended, but the leaders knew in order to make the festival grow, headliner entertainment was needed, and a new identity was created. The name changed to Portfest “Rollin’ on the River” in 1989. Since that time headline entertainers have included Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Pam Tillis, Marty Stuart, Tracy Lawrence, Lorrie Morgan, John Michael Montgomery, Neal McCoy, Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton, to name a few. Rock acts were added recently and have

People browse booths at the 2010 Newport Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. More than 500 people visited with included 38 Special and Loverboy. Portfest welcomes about 10,000 people over two days. Since its inception, Portfest has received many awards. In January 2007 the Arkansas Festival Association named Portfest runner-up for Festival of the Year This year’s country act will feature the legendary Charlie Daniels Band. The band, best known for its hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” will be on the main stage Friday night. Saturday night the main stage features a rock act to be announced. Tickets for Portfest go on sale in late April. Oth-

the 30-plus vendors. The 2011 Business Expo will be held on Friday.

er activities that will be part of the 2011 celebration include the Portfest Invitational Golf Tournament, the 5K run, fishing derby, talent show and captain’s reception. Depot Days, Newport’s other big festival, is at the end of September each year. The event features a full day of music, crafts, food and games on Front Street in front of the Newport Train Depot. The event has seen steady growth. The main stage features rockabilly acts, which appeared at the clubs along Rock and Roll Highway 67 during the 50s and 60s. Admission is free.

The chamber also hosts an annual business expo. This year’s expo will be April 1 from 3-5:30 p.m. The event allows area businesses to showcase their products, establish business relationships and reach new customers. This year’s theme is “Business is Blooming,” and vendors are asked to decorate with that in mind. There will be prizes for the best booth and costumes. The cost for a booth is $75 and includes back and side drapes, a 6-foot table and two chairs. Hors d’oeuvres will be served, and admission will be free to the public.

‘We implemented the e-mail blast several years ago, and it has been a great success. If a group has an event they want announced we do a mass e-mail blast to all chamber members and guests. We send out several a week, and there is not fee associated with it.’ Julie Allen director, Newport Area Chamber of Commerce community, county and state. They visit areamanufacturers, meet with elected officials and learn leadership skills. Many graduates of the program have run for elective office in the city and county. Each year the chamber sponsors the Miss Three

QuickINFO | Name: Newport Area Chamber of Commerce Chief executive: Jon Chadwell, executive director Location: 201 Hazel Street Headquarters: Newport Telephone: 523-3618 Web site: www.newport archamber.org

River’s Pageant, a preliminary pageant of the Miss Arkansas Pageant system. The winner represents the community at the Miss Arkansas Pageant in Hot Springs. Other chamber activities include the annual Newport Christmas parade, Tourism Council, Trashiest Team Cleanup, Arkansas Scholars Program and the scholarship drive that provides area youth with thousands of dollars in scholarship money each year. When not hosting events, the chamber works with area business to promote the community. “We implemented the e-mail blast several years ago, and it has been a great success. If a group has an event they want announced we do a mass e-mail blast to all chamber members and guests. We send out several a week, and there is not fee associated with it,” Allen said. The Newport Chamber consists of about 300 members.

SynTel launches first phase of program with much success

JONESBORO — In 2010 SynTel launched phase one of SynTel Premier Solutions, which was so successful that the company has begun planning for phase two, SynTel officials said. The SPS program automates document production and delivery opera-

tions for client companies. SynTel automates and streamlines delivery of customer communications. “As the economy has put increased pressure on organizations to reduce their costs of operations, many organizations have begun to outsource

their mailroom operations to SynTel,” SynTel said on its Web site. The site also promises clients will have greater work production, reduce the amount of money spent on supplies and allow for less equipment frustration by outsourcing the mailroom operations.

Andrea Scott, marketing coordinator, said SynTel has already helped more than 1,400 companies automate mailrooms. Phase two is set to be complete in May and will include a 3,000-squarefoot facility with new equipment. The company is also in adding four new

staff members. SynTel has changed from being a print and mail software provider to a full document delivery channel, company officials said. “SynTel expanded its offerings to include email, mobile, remittances processing and more,” Scott said.

Employees Bryan Barnes, Brent Martin, Chris Travis, Evonne McMinn, Jason Crossno, Karen Moss and Ryan Johns all have earned USPS certification in mail piece design. McMinn also earned a 2011 USPS executive mail center manager certification.

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Chamber focuses on authority’s development BY GEORGE JARED SUN STAFF WRITER

POCAHONTAS — Local officials hope efforts in 2010 to spur industrial job growth will lead to a more prosperous environment for retail and other area businesses. The Randolph Chamber of Commerce focused most of its attention over the last year on the development of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority, an organization comprised of cities and counties in the area looking to promote industry. “Basically, all of our energy has gone into the Intermodal authority,� Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tim Scott said. “We see a lot of potential there.� Retail and other business sales have lagged over the last couple of years in Pocahontas and the surrounding areas due to a poor economy, Scott said. Despite this, several businesses opened in 2010. The E-Street Bistro, an American fare restaurant opened last spring near the Old Courthouse in Pocahontas. “They’re getting close to celebrating their year anniversary, and they do a lot of business,� Scott said.

Another restaurant, Beverly’s, moved into the old Bonanza building in

2010 and has experienced a significant increase in its number of customers,

Scott said. Kearby Air, a company that teaches would-be

port, the flight training school takes three to four months to complete and costs about $8,000, owner Derek Kearby said. Pocahontas Tire and Auto also opened in the last year and is doing well, Scott said. Other businesses such as Pinnacle Frame and Accent and Pocahontas Aluminum have expanded recently, Scott added. The Randolph County Chamber has 215 members, and officials hope that number will balloon into the 240-250 range in the next couple of years. NARIFA will be the key, Scott said. “It’s a regional concept and one that hopefully will create jobs,� Scott said. “That should help everybody’s business.� gjared@jonesborosun.com

QuickINFO |

George Jared | The Sun

Tim Kizer (top left), general manager of Integrated Renewable Resources, meets with local officials to discuss plans to build a railroad tie plant in the Hoxie-Walnut

Ridge area during a meeting of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority last May 27.

Sylvan tutors hundreds of students

JONESBORO — “In the past year Sylvan Learning of Jonesboro has provided tutorial services for 200 students in the Jonesboro area and 600 in the state of Arkansas, at no charge to the families, through the No Child Left Behind (Act of 2001)� Marketing Director Missy Tubbs said. Students from the Jonesboro area were referred to Sylvan by the Math and Science magnet school, Annie Camp and Douglas MacArthur

pilots to fly, got off the ground last year. Located at the Pocahontas Air-

junior high schools, and Jonesboro High School, all in the Jonesboro School District. In February Sylvan acquired Sylvan Learning in Memphis. At that time Joanna Byrnes, director of education in the Jonesboro center was appointed center director of the Memphis location. Other staffing changes were also made to accommodate the new center. The current total employment stands at 150, and Sylvan

QuickINFO | Name: Sylvan Learning of Jonesboro Address: 2007 East Nettleton Ave., Suite C Phone: 932-4494 Web site: www.jonesborosylvan.com E-mail: mtubbs@jonesborosylvan.com Principal officers: Ashley Hill, executive director; Jill Jackson, regional director; Missy Tubbs, marketing coordinator; and Krystal Smith, director of education plans to train additional staff during the coming year, Tubbs said. Sylvan Learning of Jonesboro provides tutor-

Name: Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director: Tim Scott Executive Secretary: Deonne Donner Location: 107 East Everett Pocahontas, 72455 Mailing Address: 107 East Everett, Pocahontas, AR 72455 Telephone: 892-3956 Web site: chamber010@ centurytel.net

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Three chambers continue adding members in Clay BY GEORGE JARED SUN STAFF WRITER

Three Clay County chambers of commerce are trying to retain and add members, even as the local economy has slowed in recent years. Attempts are also underway to grow the job base and add industrial manufacturers to the region.

Corning

Over the last three years the Corning Area Chamber of Commerce has grown from 85 members to 151, Executive Director Barry Sellers said. “Our goal when I came here was to double our membership,” Sellers said. “We’re nearly there.” Four years ago Corning was bleeding jobs to the tune of 800 lost in the previous couple of years, Sellers said. Several companies hired more work-

‘Our goal when I came here was to double our membership. We’re nearly there.’ Barry Sellers executive director, Corning Area Chamber of Commerce

ers over the last year including L.A. Darling which added more than 100 workers in 2010, he said. Besides the industrial growth multiple businesses opened for the

QuickINFO |

QuickINFO | Name: Corning Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director: Barry Sellers Location: 1621 West Main St., Corning 72422 Mailing Address: 1621 West Main St., Corning 72422 Telephone: 857-3874 Web site: www.corningarchamber.org first time or expanded, Sellers said. Breaker Drive-In, an iconic sock-hop style restaurant reopened. The Donut Shop, C & C One Stop, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Cissy’s, Nicole’s Furniture and others also began operation last year. Sellers credits part of the chamber’s success to its Web site and an aggressive approach to job creation. In 2011 the chamber plans to start a new program to help businesses stay open and expand, he said. At least three industrial prospects are exploring a possible location in the city, Sellers said.

Piggott Membership in the Piggott area Chamber of Commerce has waned in recent years, mostly due to a sluggish economy, Chamber President Tim Blair said. The chamber now has 65 members, slightly down from previous years, he said. One event that helped infuse life into the local economy was the 12th Annual Piggott Heritage Park Car Show and Cruise in May. The show attracted more than 3,000 visitors, and 300 vehicles participated in the chamber-sponsored event, Blair said. Local businesses make a lot of money because of the show, Blair said, and it helps to promote tourism. Another car show is planned for this May, he said.

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Name: Piggott Area Chamber of Commerce President: Tim Blair Location: 100 West Main, Piggott 72454 Mailing Address: P.O. Box 96 Piggott 72454 Telephone: 598-3167 Web site: www.piggottchamber.org

Efforts are under way to revitalize the Rector Chamber Commerce, according to local officials. A membership drive is ongoing, and city officials hope to have an office setup in the future. gjared@jonsborosun.com

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Blytheville Chamber celebrating 100 years Group official: Organization backbone of city’s resilience BY NAN SNIDER SPECIAL TO THE SUN

B LY T H E V I L L E — T h e Greater Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce organization will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, with festivities and programs running throughout 2011. “We have had 100 years of community service in the Blytheville and Gosnell areas,” Chamber

‘I have found that progress depends on positive energy, and we’ve got a lot of that. Our mission has always been to improve the business climate and quality of life in the area we serve.’ Liz Smith executive director, The Greater Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce President Peggy Lemons said. “Our organization is not just about what we have accomplished but why we have been able to accomplish it. We all have different professional needs and personal goals, but throughout our history we have put aside our differences and come together to solve problems and move our city forward. “This resilience is

why experts tell us that Blytheville became a model for survival when the air base closed,” Lemons said. “The state of Arkansas knows our resilience. In 2003 we found a way to move ahead by taxing ourselves and building incentives for industrial development. By renewing our tax, we were able to keep ourselves competitive and in the game for years to come. I think this chamber is the backbone of that resilience.” Recognizing that change is a constant. Chamber members dedicated themselves to look to the future and be a part of positive change for their community at their annual banquet earlier this year. The Greater Blytheville Chamber of Commerce now has more than 700 people from the Blytheville and Gosnell area who comprise committee rosters and membership rolls. “We have developed a Young Professional Network to bring young leaders between the ages of 21 and 39 together so they can build relationships with each other and get involved in the community,” Lemons said. “This has proven to be very successful. “We also started ‘Industry Issues and Insights’ to put businesses in touch with experts at state and national levels,” Chamber Executive Director Liz Smith said. “We are addressing environmental regulations and safety issues by holding roundtable discussions.” The chamber works with city governments and other key organizations such as the Great River Economic Devel-

QuickINFO | Name: Greater Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Director: Liz Smith President: Peggy Lemons Location: 300 West Walnut St., Blytheville Mailing address: P.O. Box 485, Blytheville, AR 72316 Telephone: 762-2012 Web site: www.blythe villegosnell.com

opment Area and Main Street Blytheville in a collective partnership commitment. “We deliver leadership through a wide variety of programs, including conferences, expos, lunch ‘n learns, and workshops designed to embrace community strengths and resolve business issues,” Smith said. “We reinforce and tackle educational issues, advance beautification of the community, reevaluate our infrastructural needs, and focus on retail and industrial development. “I have found that progress depends on positive energy, and we’ve got a lot of that,” Smith said. “Our mission has always been to improve the business climate and quality of life in the area we serve. That has not changed in all these years.” In hopes of keeping people better informed the chamber published a 60-page “Blytheville/ Gosnell Community Profile and Resource Guide” booklet this past year along with a Web site calendar of upcoming community events at www.blythe -villegosnell.com.


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Hotels in city make strides during 2010 BY MICHAEL WILKEY SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — A motel manager said his business has began to rebound after a slow 2010. Ken Patel, manager of the Park Place Inn, said the motel on Caraway Road refurbished many of its rooms last year. “We have new furniture, bedspreads and carpeting,” said Patel, who has owned the motel for two years. “It is all new inside.” He said the hotel’s swimming pool was recently re-opened, and many guests eat dinner at the nearby El Acapulco restaurant. The motel guests are currently using about half of the rooms at the motel, he said. “We have 120 rooms, and about 50 are now working. We are slowly working on the rest,” Patel said. He said the motel has two full-time employees, but he employs others as needed. He said the motel benefits from being close to Downtown Jonesboro. “Our location is good. We are down the street from ASU and are close to McDonald’s and Burger King,” Patel said. As for guests, Patel said his hotel has a good mix of out-of-town guests and regional people visiting Jonesboro.

Comfort Inn

There have also been renovations at the Comfort Inn on Gilmore Drive. Antonia Maldonado, assistant general manager,

said new carpet was installed in each of the motel’s rooms in 2010. She said other work has been done at the motel near U.S. 63 and NEA Baptist Medical Center. Maldonado said business has improved so far this year, compared to the first three months of 2010.

Owner’s take Local hotel owner Naz Kazi said the Jonesboro hotel market has stabilized this year after a soft 2010. Kazi, who owns the Days Inn, Baymont Inn and Lexington Suites in

‘Jonesboro did not face the blow. In Fayetteville you had good quality rooms that went from $25 to $32 a night. In Las Vegas some rooms were as low as $25 a night.’ Naz Kazi Jonesboro hotel owner Jonesboro, said Jonesboro did not face problems such as lack of occupancy that other cities faced in 2010. “Jonesboro did not face the blow. In Fayetteville you had good quality rooms that went from $25 to $32 a night. In Las Vegas some rooms were as low as $25 a night,”

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Sneha Patel talks about her family’s efforts to renovate Park Place Inn in Jonesboro on March 18. She said many rooms have new carpeting and fresh paint. Kazi said. He said rates at Jonesboro hotels did not dip as low as other cities due in part to some of the newer hotels. “Their operating expense is higher, with a new product. We went 10 years without anything new (hotels),” Kazi said. He said economy-class hotels have remained stable, while most of the activity in prices has been in mid-market hotels. Kazi, who is building a Candlewood Suites hotel along U.S. 63, said the local hotels saw steady business in 2009 in part due to an ice storm. He said most motels saw eight months of revenue in a 3-month period due to utility crews in the area repairing power lines and local residents who were without power.

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“The rest of the county got hit economically, but we struggled through a natural disaster,” Kazi said. “It created a huge cushion as the market was dropping.”

Hotel tax down The collection of the city hotel tax in Jonesboro was slightly down in 2010, compared to the

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two years prior. The city collected $416,677 in 2010, about $42,000 lower than what was collected in 2009. City officials said in December they will also change the way the tax is collected. The taxes were originally collected in an accrual, or monthby-month basis, but is now collected on a cash basis.

The tax began as a 1 percent tax in 1973 but was increased to 3 percent in 2007. It is collected on the occupancy of hotel-motel accommodations on a day-to-day or week-by-week basis. The revenues from the tax go to the city’s Advertising and Promotions Commission. mwilkey@jonesborosun.com

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JETS enacts changes to better serve riders BY KARIN HILL SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — Jonesboro’s public transit system continues to change in an attempt to meet demand while minimizing costs. The most recent example of that is a proposal to implement shorter loops on the Jonesboro Economical Transportation System and eliminate service where it is rarely used. “I see it as a consolidation period,” JETS Coordinator Steve Ewart said. “What I mean by that is getting a real good handle on what our capabilities are and what our requests are, and making sure we meet our most urgent requests and most urgent needs with our resources that are available. We’re still in the early stages of defining how JETS best serves this community. ... It’ll always be a process.” Earlier this month Ewart said shifting populations may be cause for another adjustment. He said there is not much demand west of Caraway Road and south of Highland Drive. The only two exceptions in those areas are The Links and Gladiolus apartment complexes. “What I’m proposing is that we continue to study this all the way up to June ... and we try to see if we can see any changes in the pattern we’ve established here,” he told the JETS Community Advisory

QuickINFO | Name: JETS Phone: 935-5387 Web site: www.ridejets .com Board on March 2. “My tentative idea is to shift our resources away from where it’s not used and to where it is used. And rather than do three 1-hour loops, do three 30-minute loops, which makes it a much more efficient service.” Ewart noted that JETS, which was established in 2006, is still a young transit system. He said other cities with at least a hundred years’ experience in public transit continue to deal with similar challenges. Last year was full of changes, starting January 2010 with a 55 percent reduction in service and new routes. The new system eliminated all Saturday service and service around the Jonesboro Industrial Park-Craighead Technology Park east of Commerce Drive. It also reduced MondayFriday fixed-route service from six 30-minute routes to three 1-hour routes operating on a 5:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. schedule. That was later changed to its current 5 a.m.-7 p.m. schedule in an effort to help people get to jobs on time using the new 1-hour loops. Ewart said he arrived

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

P.J. Neal (left) and Latrice Hopkins ride JETS bus route 55 on Oct. 6. at the new configuration after studying data that indicated which routes were most popular. The new routes incorporate the vast majority of the existing route territory but eliminate a few legs. Ewart said the plan

A JETS bus driver prepares for transfers at the City Hall stop March 10.

Karin Hill | The Sun

aims to give service to all existing passengers, but it eliminated areas where passengers were sparse. The industrial area was one of the least-used routes. Declining revenues from advertisements on buses, a tighter city budget and reduced state contributions to JETS funds were among the reasons for the reduction. The JETS budget for 2010 was significantly lower than the previous year’s, coming in at just under $1 million. But just three weeks after the system switched to new routes, additional changes were implemented. And more slight revisions continued throughout the year as trends became apparent. Throughout the year JETS continued to deal

with the effects of the major route reconfiguration, which left some riders discouraged or confused. Numbers dropped dramatically in January when the new routes went into effect. But numbers inched back up all year. The first two months of 2011 had significantly higher rider counts than the same period last year. The budget for 2011 increased slightly to just over $1 million, the main reason being need for a new bus, Ewart said. However, the contribution from the city’s general fund is decreasing significantly to $61,000 this year, compared to about $300,000 in 2010. About $286,000 will come from state turnback funds. Mid-way through 2010 city officials discovered

they could use up to 10 percent of turnback funds — money dedicated for streets-related projects — to public transit. Jonesboro had a slight surplus in the turnback account last year, and officials eagerly tapped into that fund to relieve pressure from the general fund. Recently state legislation was proposed to allow all cities to use up to 20 percent of turnback funds for public transit. Ewart said Jonesboro would support this formula. Another attempt to stabilize revenue for 2011 was a fare increase that went into effect at the start of the year. Rates rose by 25 percent across the board, both for fixedroute and paratransit services. PLEASE SEE JETS, H25

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Out of the Dark expands beyond NEA BY RAY WHITESIDE SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — Out of the Dark, the Jonesborobased youth anti-drug and alcohol organization, began spreading outside Northeast Arkansas in 2010. The organization, which began in the summer of 2008 under the direction of Charles “Skip” Mooney Jr., a Jonesboro attorney, now has interest groups in Benton, Harrisburg and Sherwood. There are also chapters at every school in Craighead County and the Success Achievement Academy. “We’ve been getting lots of calls from all over the state. There is a huge interest in what we are doing,” Mooney said. “State agencies are even starting to take notice.” More than 100 students from Craighead County visited the state Capitol in Little Rock for a peaceful demonstration. “That’s one way we’ve gotten the word out on the state level,” Mooney said. In a victory for the local organizations, an annual survey conducted in area schools showed Craighead County students reported slightly lower drug and alcohol use in 2010 compared to the last few years. Key areas such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, inhalants, methamphetamine, prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs showed lower

rates of use among sixthand eighth-graders. At the bottom of the list is prescription drugs at a 4.4-percent use rate among all students surveyed, down from 6.1 percent in 2009. “What [the results] tell me — it’s not a pure indication — but it certainly tells me the Out of the Dark movement has had an impact locally, and it’s gotten more people to talk about the issues,” Mooney said. “You know they say a person’s brain is not fully developed until they are 24 or 25, and the last part to develop is decisionmaking skills. Kids don’t realize that while they are taking these drugs they are

stunting their development.” Overall, 15.4 percent of Craighead County students used alcohol in the previous 30 days before taking the survey, while 12.7 percent used “any drug” and 10.8 percent used “alco-

pops,” alcoholic beverages such as malt liquor, wine or distilled liquor with fruit juices added. For sixth-graders the top three substances used in the past 30 days in 2010 were “any drug” at 4.9 percent, alcohol at 2.6 percent and inhalants at 1.8 percent. Last year 6.8 percent of sixthgraders said

Saundra Sovick | The Sun

Kyrssen Calloway, Nettleton High School Raiders Against Destructive Decisions-Out of the Dark chapter member, trims a sign on Jan. 28 at NHS in Jonesboro. She helped make signs for chapter members to take to the state Capitol for a demonstration against prescription drug abuse.

they had used “any drug” in the past 30 days, while alcohol was at 2.9 percent and inhalants came in at 2.9 percent. For eighth-graders, the top three substances used in 2010 were “any drug” at 8 percent, alcohol at 7.7 percent and cigarettes at 5.3 percent. In 2009 “any drug” registered a 12.2-percent usage rate, while alcohol and cigarettes came in at 11.4 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. For 10th-graders in 2010 alcohol was the most prevalent at 25.5 percent, while alcopops and “any drug” came in second and third at 19.4 percent and 19.2 percent, respectively. Alcohol came in at a 24.4-percent usage rate in 2009, while alcopops and “any drug” finished in 2009 at 24.8 percent and 19 percent, respectively. For 12th-graders in 2010 alcohol came in first at 34.7 percent, while cigarettes and “any drug” were second and third at 25.1 percent and 23.7 percent, respectively. Alcohol came in at a 37.9-percent usage rate in 2009, and cigarettes and “any drug” finished at 26.8 percent and 24.7 percent, respectively. Jean Strauser, a coordinator of school chapters for Out of the Dark, noted that prescription drug abuse, a growing concern the last few years, also saw a decrease. “But we’re still above state average on that

QuickINFO | Name: Out of the Dark Inc. Founded: 2008 Purpose: Educating children on the dangers of drugs and alcohol Membership: More than 1,000 Schools: Bay, Brookland, Buffalo Island Central, Jonesboro, Nettleton, Success Achievement Academy, Valley View and Westside Web site: www.outofthe dark.org

one so we still have some work to do,” she said. Also in 2010, about 260 students participated in a leadership conference at Arkansas State University that was hosted by the Out of the Dark Coalition. The youth conference included peer-to-peer leadership training by students from Dover Youth of New Hampshire. Also in October, the group hosted the Northeast Arkansas Medical Summit at the ASU Convocation Auditorium. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin was a speaker, along with about a dozen doctors and lawyers. The summit focused on prescription drug abuse. Each school chapter is represented with a member on the Out of the Dark School Committee, which is charged with setting chapter guidelines, creating activities and establishing the funding needs for the participating schools. rwhiteside@jonesborosun.com

JETS: Fares rise for routes throughout city; public encouraged to provide feedback; Web site updated FROM PAGE H24

Current fares for fixedroute service, which includes the buses traveling three regular routes throughout the city, rose to $1.25 for adults, 90 cents for students, and 60 cents for senior citizens, the disabled and Medicare riders.

Basic paratransit fares increased from $2 to $2.50. The price of a 31-day fare rose from $25 to $31.25 for adults, and $16 to $20 for students, senior citizens, disabled and Medicare riders. Another effort to consolidate and work frugally was the addition of

a mobility manager position to coordinate transit service among JETS and several human service agencies in Jonesboro. The goal is to eliminate waste and duplication of service, as well as filling in any gaps that currently are not served by one entity or another. That program is still in

the data-collection phase and has not been implemented fully, Ewart said. The JETS employee who was working on it recently left the job, leaving things in a holding pattern, he said. Other updates from the last year include updates to the Web site and more opportunities for public

feedback. Board meetings have been held in the Jonesboro Public Library instead of JETS offices, although few people have attended. New office space for JETS administration was completed last fall. In addition, JETS workers and the city’s compliance officer have been

going through their inventory of stops and bus shelters to check on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ewart said there is a lot of work to be done to get everything into compliance, but some progress is being made. khill@jonesborosun.com Our Pledge Honesty Integrity, Dependability Our Commitment Professional Quality Workmanship Our Guarantee 100% Customer Satisfaction

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Police turn to technology in fighting crime

on suspect profiles for unsolved crimes, such as unsolved arsons. Police and Fire departments are working together in trying to solve more than a dozen suspicious fires in the past couple of years. McDaniel said officers also use state and national Web sites while investigating local cases. Leads on Labs allows Arkansas police to track pseudoephedrine sales to fight the manufacture of methamphetamine. Another Web site gives local police information

BY KEITH INMAN SUN STAFF WRITER

JONESBORO — They track down killers, thieves, chid predators, even purse snatchers — not with fast cars, but with modern technology. Jonesboro police officers are increasingly becoming computer geeks. Police Chief Mike Yates said he receives the latest Homeland Security alerts and other policerelated information on his cell phone, whether on the job or not. The Jonesboro Police Department has its own High Tech Crimes unit. Last May JPD became home to the only forensic laboratory dedicated to investigations of computer and Internet crimes that target child victims. Jonesboro received a $113,114 grant last year awarded by Arkansas State Police from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The 4-year grant provides computer laboratory equipment and specialized training for two Jonesboro officers. One of the reasons Jonesboro got the grant was the high number of cases the Jonesboro department had already been generating, state police officials said. But catching sex offenders isn’t the only thing police can now do. Here are some recent examples: • The unit retrieved text messages from the

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Ray Whiteside | The Sun

Jonesboro Emergency-911 Coordinator Jeff Presley checks emergency calls in his Jonesboro office at the Municipal Complex. cell phones of a murder victim and her killer. And in August the jury basically heard the digital conversations between Tyrina Cornwell and Tony Liggins on the day leading up to her death. Liggins is now serving a 65-year prison sentence. • The man who stabbed a church secretary received a 150-year sentence last September af-

ter a jury watched video of her attacker using the victim’s credit cards. Roy “Ray” Lee Anthony of Forrest City was arrested just hours after the shocking attack when two stores provided the video and other information, such as a license plate number, which led police to Anthony. • Last November Jonesboro became the first

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city in the state to allow residents to contact 911 via text messaging service. The number to text dispatchers is 8820911. Since the city went public with the service, other cities have called for advice on starting their own E-911 texting service. Almost daily, members of the Criminal Investigation Division can be seen watching surveillance video, trying to identify suspects who are seen stealing in stores or parking lots, using stolen credit or debit cards or assaulting people. If the officer can’t recognize the perpetrator, he asks for help from the public. Through the department’s Web site (www .jonesboropolice.com) and its Crimestoppers program, the public can watch video clips or view

still shots and receive a reward for a useful tip after a conviction. Sgt. Stephen McDaniel, public information officer for the department, urges all residents to take advantage of the Web site. “This is stuff available to the general public that wasn’t available just a few years ago,” McDaniel said. Yates said a recent federal grant that provided funding for a crime analyst is also paying off. The analyst produces statistics on what types of crimes or traffic accidents occur at given times and locations, McDaniel said. With that information, supervisors determine when, where and how many officers should be deployed on given days. The analyst also works

Officers use state and national Web sites when investigating local cases. For example, Leads and Labs allows police to track pseudoephedrine sales to assist in the fight against methamphetamine.

on what items are bought and sold at pawn shops. Each year as computer technology improves, police see improvements in their crime-fighting ability, McDaniel said. “One of the biggest things I see here is the ability to get digital photographs out to officers just by e-mail,” McDaniel said. Each police car has a computer, which allows officers to receive such information, conduct research and write incident reports in the field, McDaniel said. inman@jonesborosun.com

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356 new homes built in Craighead County Other counties in NEA also see construction in 2010

JONESBORO — T h e r e were 356 new homes built in Craighead County in 2010, according to figures released by the county assessor’s office. The newly discovered assessed value, or 20 percent of market value, for the homes is $10,171,700. The newly discovered appraised value, or full market value, of the homes is $50,858,500. The county does not issue building permits for new homes, Tesi Harlan with the assessor’s office said. Jonesboro and the surrounding smaller communities issue permits for parcels within their borders, but records for rural Craighead County are updated the following year through a different process. “We keep up with new homes and new commercial buildings when our independent reappraisal company goes back and appraises them,” Harlan said. The 356 new homes were finished between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 1, 2011. In the commercial sector, The Mall at Turtle Creek and World Color Printing USA, formerly Quebecor World, topped the list of Craighead County business tax assessments for 2010. Total assessments are also up in the county. Businesses are assessed on two fronts — real property (buildings and land) and personal property, which is everything else the company uses to sell or conduct business and operations from software to heavy moving equipment. The assessments are important because they are used for taxation and

contribute to available revenue for schools and local government. Both the mall and World Color are in the Nettleton School District. The total value of real property in the county for 2010 was $978,628,727, an

‘I would say we’re rockin’ right along. We’re doing well in the public service utilities — the companies that provide cell phone use and other things.’ Eddie Thomas Craighead County assessor increase of $577,522 from 2009 when assessments totaled $978,051,205. Both the mall and World Color were at the top of the lists in 2009. In 2010 the mall showed an increase in real property from $8,954,720 in 2009 to $9,768,790. It’s been said that Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas are in a “recession bubble” — meaning this area has been protected from national recession trends because of the types of business here, such as farming and niche retail markets. “I would say we’re rockin’ right along,” County Assessor Eddie Thomas said in October after the figures were released. “We’re doing well in the public service utilities — the companies that provide cell phone

use and other things.” All of the assessments are calculated based on 20 percent of market value, and that is the amount on which each entity is taxed. The mall, 3000 East Highland Drive, is reportedly worth double the No. 2 business on the list — The Links Apartment Complex, which was assessed at $3,749,480. The Links was assessed at $3,496,220 in 2009. Third was Health Tech Affiliates at $3,354,000. Health Tech encompasses NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital, 3024 Stadium Blvd. It was assessed at the same value in 2009. Fourth was Riceland Foods-Jonesboro Rice Mill at $3,204,050. Riceland is at 509 North Floyd St. and is said to be the world’s largest rice producer. It was assessed at $3,174,270 in 2009. The Bank of Jonesboro was fifth at $3,174,270. Under the bank’s umbrella is Liberty Bank. The bank remained the same from 2009 to 2010.

Poinsett County The tax base grew in Poinsett County in 2010 due in part to construction, Assessor Johnny Rye Jr. said. The county saw a $8 million, or 3.5 percent increase, over 2009 numbers. Rye said the new construction was spread out throughout the county, with construction in Harrisburg, Marked Tree and Trumann and agricultural construction in Fisher, Weiner and Waldenburg.

Mississippi County The county faced popu-

John Flora | Special to The Sun

Steve Cline (foreground) of Bono marks a 2-by-4 for cutting while Stacy Passmore, of Lorado, wields a nail gun at a new home lation losses but has seen some growth in construction, Mississippi County Assessor Harley Bradley said. He said there were industrial and commercial growth along the Mississippi River, with some buildings constructed in the Osceola area. He said Manila was the residential growth spot

construction site in the Blue Ridge Estates at Brookland on March 24, 2010.

in the county in 2010, while houses were also built in Blytheville and Osceola. The growth in Manila came after local farmers and entrepreneurs began developing land in and around Manila. “The Campbells and B o b b y Wa l t o n , t h e y started building, and it began to pay off for

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them,” Bradley said.

Randolph County

In 2010 about 45 new houses were built in Randolph County, according to numbers released by the County Assessor’s Office. Officials are still tabulating the value of the projects. Satisfy your craving for more news. Call to subscribe today!

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Growing downtown may get special status BY ANTHONY CHILDRESS SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JONESBORO — In just a few short years the downtown area of Jonesboro has been transformed into a bustling cultural and entertainment district, something a group of volunteers with ties to its success are determined to keep progressing in years to come. Call it the Downtown Jonesboro Association’s own Northeast Arkansas outlook. The tax-exempt 401(c)3 organization is fast at work to ensure more crowds find their way to Main Street and other thoroughfares to enjoy good food, shopping, music and plenty of time to socialize. Come Thursday the association will be tapping into its membership’s energy at a launch party from 4-6 p.m. at Arnold Real Estate, 312 South Main St. Brooke Arnold-Kochel, DJA board member, said the effort represents “an exciting first step as we work together to become a Main Street community.” If attained, the designation will tap Jonesboro into the Main Street Arkansas program. Before that happens, the group needs to raise money and prepare. The Downtown Capital Funding Campaign is about that goal, a move welcomed by Greg Phil-

lips, assistant director of MSA and chief of its downtown programs. Phillips previously told The Sun that a city like Jonesboro needs a viable downtown district for many reasons, including quality of life and to recruit business and industry. Phillips then added that members’ proposed changes would provide additional opportunities for grants and other activities that can help the

The upcoming launch part represents ‘an exciting first step as we work together to become a Main Street community.’ Brooke Arnold-Kochel board member, Downtown Jonesboro Association association raise more money. The association would need that money to pay the salary and benefits for a full-time director, and Phillips said the association needs one. Gaining Main Street status goes hand-in-hand with other initiatives

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undertaken by business owners throughout the downtown sector. They include the arrival of luxury loft apartments carved out of historic buildings, locating new eateries in structures once occupied by downtown staples, expansions of existing businesses into other heritage-inspired spots and the like. Breathing new life into old buildings does not have to mean those tackled by the private sector alone. One prime example is the first extensive renovation at The Forum in Downtown Jonesboro. It includes repairing and replacing each of the 676 seat bottoms in the nearly 85-year-old building. Wendy Stotts, development and marketing director for the Foundation of Arts, told The Sun the group’s facilities and grounds committee is working with the City of Jonesboro on the project. The city owns the building, and it gave $10,000 for the project, she said. Another indication of revitalization can be found in painted signage that brings old building advertisements back to life. Vince Pearcy, owner of VPS Signs of Jonesboro, has been involved with that process for several years. Pearcy has refurbished historic signs uncovered as some buildings are renovated and the layers of plaster and paper are peeled back. Where no old signs exist, Pearcy has created ones that look convincingly vintage, adding to the ambiance and downtown mystique.

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Curt Hodges | The Sun

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Jonesboro sign artist Vince Pearcy compares a schematic drawing to artwork being applied to a wall in Skinny J’s Restaurant in Downtown Jonesboro. Pearcy cre-

ated the mural on the restaurant’s north wall and has done creative reproduction and restoration of original sign art in the city’s historic district.

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