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.

Users, supporters and operators of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) gathered last week to talk about the river system’s many benefits as well as its maintenance needs at the annual membership meeting of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Port Operators Association (AOPOA).

The meeting, held Sept. 5-6 at Catoosa, Oklahoma, was convened in conjunction with the annual U.S. Army Corps of Engineers MKARNS Navigation Workshop. It also featured the induction luncheon and ceremony honoring the five 2018 nominees to the Arkansas River Hall of Fame.

Established in 1991 by the Arkansas River Historical Society, the hall of fame honors those “who have performed significant and outstanding service” in the development of the navigation system.

This year’s inductees included Phyllis Harden. She was introduced at the luncheon by Scott McGeorge, a long-time president of Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Company here, who recounted for attendees Harden’s eligibility criteria for receiving the honor.

An employee of Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel since 1981, Harden’s current responsibilities for the company primarily are legislative issues and special projects.

According to biographical information in the printed program that was detailed by McGeorge, Harden is a “tireless advocate for waterborne commerce in Arkansas along the MKARNs” and is a frequent visitor to Washington, D.C., to lobby for federal waterways projects and MKARNS funding. She is also persistent in efforts to see the authorized 12-foot navigation channel become reality and to secure funding for critical MKARNS maintenance.

In addition to service as a director on several national boards, Harden is vice-chairman of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority.

Harden joins an impressive group of local waterways advocates previously inducted into the Arkansas River Hall of Fame, including Emmett Sanders (1994), William H. “Bill” Kennedy, Jr. (1995), Wallace A. “Wally” Gieringer (1998), Wallace P. McGeorge, Jr. (2000), L. E. “Ed” Thompson (2001), Scott McGeorge (2003), W.E. Ayres (2004), Wilbur C. West (2009) and James E. Danaher (2010).

Lou Ann Nisbett, executive director of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority, also attended the AOPOA meeting and induction luncheon.