Jefferson County Economic Development Alliance President Lou Ann Nisbett has announced her retirement, effective Friday, Aug. 30.
A farewell reception will be held from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Alliance.
“Even though it wasn't unexpected, the realization that August 30 will be her last day in the office is tough for the entire Alliance team,” wrote Rhonda Dishner in a news release. Dishner serves as an executive assistant at the Alliance.
Nisbett came to Pine Bluff in 2006 from Marshall, Texas. She assumed duties as chief executive officer over the many Economic Development Alliance organizations here on Sept. 15 of that year.
Her focus as an economic developer in Marshall was on retention and expansion of existing industry, new industry location, and workforce training. Since those are missions central to economic development, that's also been her focus in Jefferson County for almost 13 years now.
“And she's been exceptionally good at it,” the news release noted.
During her tenure here, Nisbett has been involved -- directly and indirectly -- in the location of new industries, including L&R Distributors, Highland Pellets, Kiswire, Western Foods, Newland, Stacked Leasing and Twin Rivers.
She worked with existing industries toward major expansions, several of them, such as L&R, Kiswire and Twin Rivers, before, during and after a change-over in ownership. In all, the total capital investment is estimated to be in excess of $600 million. The resulting jobs created or retained is about 3,000.
“That's not counting her efforts to secure the $3.5 billion Energy Security Partners (ESP) project that could see construction start late next year with 2,500 construction jobs and 225 eventual permanent jobs,” the news release said.
“ESP executives treated Lou Ann to lunch recently to express their appreciation, and they acknowledged selecting Jefferson County largely because of her continued early-on ‘reminders’ of the site's multiple advantages for the project.”
In 2011, Nisbett was a key participant in the successful campaign for a county-wide sales tax that raised millions for incentives over the course of seven years. Those funds have helped incentivize many of the plants that have since located or expanded here. And several other projects are pending.
With workforce development also a priority, Nisbett also led the effort in 2018 to bring three counties together to work toward gaining certification in workforce skills through the ACT Work Ready Community initiative. Jefferson County is now at 94% attainment of its ACT-established goals. Only a few more industries need to sign up to bring the total to 100%.
“This list of accomplishments could go on; however, space is limited. But we must add that Lou Ann has also made countless friends,” according to the news release. “She's never met a stranger because an acquaintance always becomes a friend, including the industrial prospects she routinely ‘reminds’ about Jefferson County's assets. And we can now reveal that her sometime 15-hour work days have routinely started well before 5:30 a.m.”
When Nisbett and husband, Tom, arrived in Pine Bluff, they had two grandchildren. Now they have eight. Spending more time with those grandchildren is on her list of plans for retirement. That, and hiking, kayaking, canoeing, cycling, walking, climbing, and watching the sunrise in various places already identified by Tom.
A replacement for Nisbett has not been announced.