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TEXARKANA, Ark. — Purchase of 1,350 acres of land for the city, Miller County and economic development group AR-TX REDI to use as incentive for manufacturing businesses to locate here was completed last week, REDI recently announced.

Fronted by Interstate 30, U.S. Highway 67 and the Union Pacific railroad, the site has been dubbed the REDI Arkansas Manufacturing Center and will be promoted as a shovel-ready location for heavy manufacturing businesses such as auto and aerospace plants.

Local leaders touted the deal as a major step forward for the regional economy, allowing marketing of Texarkana as a prime place in which to build manufacturing facilities that come with new, high-wage jobs.

"Today's economic development landscape is highly competitive. By starting the process to create a shovel-ready, publicly owned site we are enhancing Texarkana's profile as a region committed to transformative growth for our residents," Mayor Allen Brown said in a news release.

REDI CEO Rob Sitterley said Thursday he had already been in touch with business-location consultants about the site and promised a "full court press" of efforts to "aggressively, proactively" market it.

A process of certifying the land — including an environmental assessment and identifying permitting timelines and infrastructure costs — has begun and is expected to be completed in three to six months. REDI said certification is a necessary but preliminary step.

"A certified site will decrease business uncertainty by providing the necessary due diligence, the understanding of timeline and costs and consistent projection of market entry. However, community leaders warn this is not a 'build it and they will come' scenario.

"While having a certified site will improve Texarkana's marketability, they will need to continue efforts such as workforce alignment and development, business retention efforts and fostering a conducive regulatory environment to help create new jobs and investment in the region," the release stated.

The city Public Facilities Board issued bonds to fund buying the land for more than $4 million. The PFB will lease the land to the city and Miller County at a cost sufficient to service that bond debt.

Created by state statute, PFBs are appointed by, but independent of, local governments and are authorized to engage in financial activity such as issuing bonds and leasing property with more flexibility than governments are allowed. Using the PFB also shields the city and county from liability should the PFB default on bonds it issues.

REDI has been working closely with local and county governments in the region to locate and acquire land for economic development. In spring 2020, a partnership comprising REDI, the cities of Hooks and New Boston, and Bowie County, Texas, committed $1.5 million to purchase 847 acres of land near Red River Army Depot with frontage on Interstate 30.

Dubbed the East Texas Logistics Center, the tract is being marketed as a prime location for a distribution center for companies such as Walmart and Amazon. A certification process similar to that at the Arkansas site is underway.

Developing and marketing the two major sites is not the end of REDI's work, which will continue with "hunting for more land," Sitterley said. REDI and other economic development advocates such as the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce are looking at local sites 10 to 15 acres in size suitable for accommodating smaller businesses, he said.

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