MEDC breaks ground on public rail access

The Monticello Economic Development Commission celebrated a milestone Tuesday with the groundbreaking of the Public Rail Access Project in the MEDC Industrial Park.

The project will equip the industrial park with rail access, which will serve existing industries as well as attract more prospects to the community.

“Expanding access to rail for the industrial park in Monticello will allow for new jobs and industrial growth here in Southeast Arkansas,” Chris Masingill, co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, said during the ceremony. “This is another step in helping us create local jobs, build stronger communities, and improve the lives of the Delta people.”

MEDC received a $275,000 grant from DRA to make this project a reality. The DRA  money combined with a grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and in-kind matching from Drew County and the city of Monticello will fund the $900,000 rail project.

MEDC director Nita McDaniel thanked those who were responsible for making the project a reality. Masingill, Steve Jones, a representative of Gov. Mike Beebe, representatives from the offices of Rep. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Bozeman and Sen. Mark Pryor; Kevin Sexton and Rachel Kluender from AEDC; and Tommy Arron and Chuck Laggan from Arkansas Midland Railroad attended Tuesday’s groundbreaking.

“Our rail is so important to us,” McDaniel said. “We are so fortunate to have the relation ship that we have with our railroad.”

Masingill thanked Arkansas Midland for the company’s efforts in Southeast Arkansas. He called Monticello the “economic hub” for Southeast Arkansas and the work done on the rail access will have a lasting affect on the whole region not just Drew County and Monticello. Representatives from Price Lumber and Maxwell Hardwood Flooring, local industries that use rail, also attended the groundbreaking.

Monticello Mayor Allen Maxwell said he’s glad to see the transition back to rail.

“For about 50 years in this country, we were tearing up all the rail we could find,” Maxwell said. “Now we are trying to rebuild the rail in this country.”

He said when he hears the “choo-choo” he runs out of his office to count the cars to see whats being brought in and carried out via rail.

“I want enough coming in on rail so that we will start having a lot going out on rail,” Maxwell said.

“Rail access is extremely important for economic development. We expect that this will help us retain jobs and will allow southeast Arkansas to improve our economic status.”

McDaniel said once the project gets started, she expects it to be completed in 90 days.

The project includes repairing the Hood Packing spur, which MEDC has assisted the industry with, and providing 300 feet of rail into the industrial park.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle,” McDaniel said. “Money spent on infrastructure is never a waste, and rail is so important to industries these days.

“This day came after two years of working to find a way to pay for the project.”

“I thank my board members for not laughing at me. I thank them for all their support during this time,” McDaniel said.

 “I am a firm believer that anything can happen and nothing is impossible.”

<p>GROUND BREAKING Judge Robert Akin, MEDC board members George Harris, Dr. Jack Lassiter, Brian Hargis; Rachel Kluender with Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Chris Masingill with Delta Regional Authority, Mayor Allen Maxwell, Chuck Laggan and Tommy Arron from Arkansas Midland Railroad; Steve Jones from the governor’s office; and representatives from Rep. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Bozeman, and Sen. Mark Pryor join MEDC director Nita McDaniel in breaking the ground for the Public Rail access.</p>


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