Friday, February 3, 2012

Alliance good for area

It is good to see the area working together under the Fort Smith Regional Alliance to make this area a better place to work and live.

A new manufacturing plant recently announced plans to open in Mulberry. Sure, Mulberry won’t have much effect on the citizens of LeFlore County, but it is still good news.

The Alliance is made up of towns within a 50-mile radius of Fort Smith, including six counties in Arkansas (Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Sebastian and Scott) along with two in Oklahoma (LeFlore and Sequoyah). There are 14 communities taking part—Alma, Altus, Booneville, Charleston, Clarksville, Greenwood, Fort Smith, Mulberry, Ozark, Paris, Poteau, Roland, Sallisaw and Van Buren.

In case you didn’t notice, Fort Smith is not listed first in that group. While it is named the Fort Smith Regional Alliance, this group seems to be working for the area and not primarily Fort Smith, which is a big reason I hope this group succeeds.

In the past, there have been other groups who tried to do the same thing, but the primary emphasis seemed to be on Fort Smith. For the alliance to succeed, it must be for the area, which seems to be the goal of the alliance.

We wish all the jobs and visitors would come to LeFlore County, but that is never going to happen. But if jobs and money come to the area, it is good for everybody. There are a ton of people from our county who work across the state line.
And unemployment in eastern Oklahoma is not that great. There are eight counties in Oklahoma with unemployment above 8.1. Three of those border Arkansas in southeastern Oklahoma in LeFlore, McCurtain and Sequoyah.

At the end of 2011, LeFlore County ranked eighth in the state in unemployment. Our percentage of unemployed was 8.4 percent, up from 7.6 in November, but down from 9.0 at the end of 2010.

LeFlore County has a labor force of 19,477 with 17,846 currently employed. Latimer County led the state at 10.5. Sequoyah was 8.9 and McCurtain was 9.7.
Here is a link to the unemployment statistics.

Aside from our local representatives and senators, nobody in Oklahoma City gives a flip about what happens in southeastern Oklahoma.

I imagine that is also true for our friends and allies across the state line. Western Arkansas and the Fort Smith area is not a big priority with Little Rock, especially not with the growth in northwestern Arkansas.

But with the Alliance working together, this could be the ticket. We have the development of Fort Chaffee and hopefully a lot more in the pipeline.

We will soon have a four-lane highway from Poteau to Sallisaw and I-40. Hopefully one day there will be a four-lane to Fort Smith from at least Poteau.

LeFlore County also has railroad access, an airport, college and the most beautiful area in the state for visitors to hike, camp, fish and hunt.

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