Lou Ann Nisbett, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, will tell you that one of her primary jobs is to recruit new industries to Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. In the same breath, however, retaining the jobs that are here is equally important.
That was the case this week as the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County approved a $572,500 incentive package for Twin Rivers Paper Co., which purchased the former Mondi Group paper mill in the Jefferson Industrial Park in June.
Commonly called the tax board, the group administers the three-eighths cent sales tax that was approved by Jefferson County voters for economic development in 2011 and generated an average of $3.5 million annually. The tax expired earlier this year and the board decided not to ask voters to renew it.
In return for the incentive package, Twin Rivers agreed to retain 190 full-time employees with an average wage of $25 per hour plus benefits for five years, and to spend nearly $19.5 million to upgrade the facility, which was originally completed in 1958.
In presenting the incentive package to the tax board, Nisbett compared it to one that was approved in 2014 for L & R Distributing, which acquired the former SAJ facility on Midland Park Drive after Walgreen’s purchased USA Drugs from the LaFrance family.
She said Walgreen’s didn’t want SAJ but another company in New York did, and the incentive package allowed them to retain jobs. Another incentive package went to Kiswire, also located in the Jefferson Industrial Park, and that company has 323 full-time employees — 33 more than the 290 the company projected when they applied for the incentives.
The incentive packages the board offered deal only with primary jobs, but for each of them, secondary jobs are retained or created. Every employee whose company is or has received incentives has to buy gas, food and clothing; they spend money on all the things they need in life. Spending that money means there are jobs for restaurant and fast food workers, gas station attendants, cashiers and salespeople at large and small stores, banks, utilities and more.
Also, those factories that receive the incentives have to buy things like cleaning supplies, food and drinks for their snack bars, and they have to pay utility bills and taxes, which generates more jobs locally.
Businesses like Twin Rivers are also involved in the community. They conducted a back to school supply drive earlier this month and all the items collected were donated to the annual Pine Bluff Black Firefighters Project Fresh Start for school kids.
Welcome, Twin Rivers. We’re glad you’re here and we’re looking forward to a long and successful relationship.