Editor’s Note: “The Economic Development Side” originally appears in the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s weekly member e-newsletter. It is written by Rhonda Dishner, the Economic Development Alliance’s executive assistant.
Winter, spring, summer, and fall — all in one day.
That’s the description of Arkansas weather the past few weeks. It’s been about the same in Washington, D.C., but at least there was still the sight of the famous cherry blossoms to greet late March visitors from Pine Bluff.
As has been done annually for years in the spring, a joint Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance delegation representing the community was in the nation’s capital to meet with Arkansas’ congressional delegation.
The pre-arranged meetings these days are designed specifically as information sessions to brief the state’s six members of congress and their staffers on important issues and developments in Jefferson County. “We really appreciate how your group keeps us informed,” one staffer remarked as a session wrapped up.
Making the “congressional salute” trip from Pine Bluff this year were Larry Kennedy of JRMC, 2017 chairman of the board for the Chamber; Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of the Alliance; Caleb McMahon, director of economic development for the Alliance; and Nancy McNew, director of the Chamber.
They were joined on the trip by Alliance consultant Art Norris, retired former deputy director of FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR). Norris is an especially valuable team member when the briefings purposely turn to discussions about NCTR, one of two major federal installations in Jefferson County (along with Pine Bluff Arsenal).
An Alliance-prepared “talking points” flyer, highlighting key points about NCTR and the Arsenal, was used in the briefing meetings, some of which occurred during a come-and-go lunch hosted by the Alliance in a room at the Russell Senate Office Building.
Sen. John Boozman and Sen. Tom Cotton both stopped by the Alliance’s reserved lunch area for short visits. Because of voting schedules on the House side, Congressmen Westerman, Hill, Crawford and Womack sent legislative staff members to the Alliance lunch, which was an intentionally easy-to-pick-up-and-go buffet “spread” of turkey, chicken or veggie wraps with chips and brownies.
Sen. Boozman also allowed time for a separate short meeting with the Alliance group later that afternoon. And 4th District Cong. Bruce Westerman and one of his staff members met the local group (from his district) for an informal dinner that evening.
Tuesday, March 28, was scheduled as a full day of talking and listening in the nation’s capital. Mission accomplished. With economical transportation by Uber. Lesson learned for next year while standing in a long security-screening line: Don’t wear much jewelry or a belt with a metal buckle.