7) West Memphis on the move

Two words to encapsulate West Memphis in 2015 were “economic development.” In June, Paris-based Sediver inked a pair of deals during ceremonies at West Memphis. Sediver, a high-tech company and a world leader in manufacturing toughened glass insulators for overhead transmission and distribution lines, debuted designs for a new plant on 15 acres located near the water tower between Family Dollar Distribution and FedEx. The deal will bring 70 new jobs to the city, most of them are in the $20-$25 per hour range. “We are very excited to be here,” said Sediver CEO René’ Tabouret at the June announcement. “We have a global footprint and worked ten years to relocate manufacturing in the USA. The project we will do with Clean Line is very important and a reason we are locating in West Memphis.” In August, the city hired a railroad consultant, Steven McLaws, to help with the exponential growth of the West Memphis River-Rail Logistics Hub (WMEX), and work as an advisor to the Economic Development Department. West Memphis Economic Development Director Ward Wimbish set a goal of making the city a dynamic rail-served industrial park. West Memphis received an 11 million dollar TIGER grant in 2012 for the increasing throughput at the port and rail freight capacity with funds for the completion of 13,500 feet of track and the city is busy luring new business to the port. “We are having a fantastically wonderful year,” West Memphis Mayor Bill Johnson said citing the boom in commercial and industrial building permits issued in September. “These projects are being built with their own money with no state aid,” said Johnson. “The total for the month, and the month only, was $12,536,000. That is a lot of building permits in West Memphis for one month.” The mayor highlighted the biggest new building projects. The Dreyfus grain terminal on the river expansion came to city hall with the biggest expansion plans last month, valued at just over seven million dollars. “Dreyfus will be doing more,” said Johnson, “they pull permits for one phase at a time.” A $4 million dollar hotel start is underway at Seventh Street and South Service Road. Dr. G.W. Sorrells told the city planning commission that his new Holiday Inn Express will be finished out in new company colors and first of its kind design concept. A pair of projects valued in the six figures also made the mayors highlight review. NGL Supply pulled a building permit for $165,000. The demolition contract for the condemned Mayfair apartments filed a permit for $148,000. The value on new signs in the city was $80,000. Southland Gaming and Racing continues to invest in its facility and got a building permit for $10,000 for a dock. St. Michael’s Catholic Church has a substantial renovation underway worth tens of thousands and a pair of swimming pools worth almost a total $40,000 took out permits. “These weren’t just one or two projects,” said City Treasurer Frank Martin. “That is phenomenal for us. That’s a lot going on for us in West Memphis. You hear naysayers saying there is nothing going on in this area, but we have got some businesses spending there own money.” In addition to these projects, work continues on the upcoming Harahan Bridge bike trail and Eco-Park, and the city looks to develop even more projects in 2016.

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