Ashdown City Council hears from county’s economic development director

Updated: June 22, 2018

By Quinton Bagley

Little River News

Vickie Williamson

The Ashdown City Council held its monthly meeting on Monday, June 11, at Ashdown City Hall. The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes but was very informative as Little River County Economic Development Director Vickie Williamson addressed the Council.

“Although we hear much about what is going on with the national economy daily, it has little to do with what is going on in Little River County,” Williamson said. “We see national statistics concerning unemployment rates and wages, but those probably aren’t the rates for our local economy. It’s the condition of the local economy that affects people’s lives more than national data or trends reflect.”

Williamson went ahead to explain how money moves through a community.

“Imagine all of the wealth of a local economy is contained in a bucket,” Williamson said. “It swirls around and around, like being churned with a mixer. It goes from person-to-person, business-to-business, person-to-business, and is constantly moving. One person buys a house and a bank makes a loan. The realtor buys a car. The auto sales person buys a stereo. The storeowner makes a life insurance payment. The insurance agent pays school property taxes. The money moves on-and-on-and-on.

“However, there is a hole in the bucket causing the wealth of the community to leak out,” Williamson continued. “Every time you purchase an automobile, a good share of the purchase price returns to Detroit, Nashville, or Tokyo, or wherever the car was made. Every time you purchase a shirt, buy a pair of shoes, make your utility payment, go on vacation, pay your income taxes, money leaves the community and goes to the area in which the product was made or the service performed. Money is continuously leaving the community through the hole in the bucket. The outward flow is constant, pervasive, and ongoing. Nothing can be done to stop it, no matter how small the hole.”

Williamson went ahead to explain how the flow of money out of the community could be offset.

“A community needs to add money to its economic bucket, replenishing its supply,” Williamson said. “A faucet at the top of the bucket needs to be turned on, filling it with fresh, rejuvenating wealth, which enables the churning process to continue. Money is imported to an area principally by the business activity of the “primary” or contributory industries located within the economy.

“A business that is a primary sells its goods or services outside the area, importing money to the local area,” Williamson continued. “When a manufacturer ships and sells its products, money flows into the home community. When a farmer sells grain, money flows into the home community. When an engineer designs a bridge in another state, money flows into the home community. When a research firm secures a federal grant, money flows into the local area.”

Williamson pointed out that Little River County is currently in a decline. According to statistics from the United State Census Bureau, the median income in Little River County has dropped $811 from 2000 when the median income was $36,207 to 2016 when the median income was an estimated $35,396.

In addition, the median age for the county has risen since 2000 when the median age was 38.2. In 2010, the median age for the county was 41.2 and in 2017 it is 41.6.

“Our population is declining overall, but our senior population is growing, while our working age and future working age (school age now) is declining,” Williamson said. “Therefore, the median age in our county is rising. Our median income has dropped since the recorded income in 2000. We have to begin strategizing now to develop a ten year plan to ensure that we turn the direction of our local economy.”

One way to reverse the county’s fortune is the development of the intermodal facility.

“The intermodal facility in development now is a huge asset in setting things in motion to move our local economy forward,” Williamson said. “It is a primary business and will bring revenues in from other states and counties. Little River County is in an ideal location for an intermodal facility – we are within 20 miles of three interstates, have access to two Class I and one Class 2 railroads, and will benefit if the Red River study determines that it is cost effective to make it navigable into Little River County.   Businesses all over the country are looking for transportation infrastructure that we will have, once it is operational.

“We are currently securing the funding for the intermodal facility and supporting warehousing,” Williamson continued. “We are not asking the city council for funding, but we will need letters of support from our elected officials and community to access some of the grant funding we are pursuing. The intermodal facility and warehouses will generate revenue immediately; therefore, will be self-sustaining. It will be built in phases as the demand presents opportunities and needs with the revenues it generates.”

In other business, the Council adopted Ordinance No. 896, which amended a section of Ordinance 885. Ordinance 896 amends and clarifies certain language of Ordinance 885 regarding particular sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption in the City of Ashdown.

With no further business before the Council, the meeting was adjourned.