Thursday, August 28, 2014


I think most of us probably realize that technology is transforming the world, including our workplaces.  It’s hard to believe that the iPhone and other mobile devices came onto the scene just a few short years ago (2007).  I was in Austin, TX recently and the restaurant we went to had their wine list presented on an iPad that was left on the table.  The wines presented on the tablet had detailed descriptions and reviews and you could order a glass or a bottle right from the table.

We've already witnessed in our own lives the impact technology has had on the workforce.  But where does this end?  The video below predicts that in the very near future technology could cause the displacement of 25% of our workforce, exceeding the unemployment rate of the great depression.  As a society, we need to understand what the implications are for business and for the people that businesses serve.  This is a really profound topic to think about and it could be a strong indication of why our current economic recovery hasn't been felt by everyone the same way.

-Bill Cork

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Recently I was invited to participate in a meeting with Amtrak, Main Street Texarkana, local community leaders and downtown property owners to discuss  a collaborative effort to increase Amtrak ridership, provide those riders with attractions and amenities that will make them want to stay and enjoy Texarkana USA and advance the improvement of our local railway station.  While ideas have been generated for a very long time, there seems to be a renewed momentum in expanding the discussion and taking some next steps.  While a number of us are working on this, I thought you might find it interesting how the station is being used today.

Below you will find a table of data below that we received from Amtrak that illustrates the Origination/Destination passenger counts at the Texarkana Station.  The way your read this is to look at the cities on the left column and then track how many riders departed FROM Texarkana to that destination as well as how many people started at that city and came TO Texarkana.  It’s fascinating to learn how people use the train to get to and from places like Chicago, St. Louis, Austin, and Los Angeles.  It is an incredibly diverse list of destination options. 

Our goal at the Chamber is to work with our local partners to find ways to increase the likelihood that more riders will 1) make Texarkana a destination to enjoy our amenities; 2) stop over on their way to somewhere else and spend a day or two visiting our wonderful city; and 3) consider making us a transfer point for places like Shreveport, Houston and even Dallas via bus, thereby reducing their transit times and offering a stopover point here that is a positive and memorable experience.

In the coming weeks, we will also talk about plans for high speed rail that could be coming to our area in the next couple of decades.  The sooner the better!!  Plans are already in the works to connect Dallas and Houston with a privatized high speed rail line that could come as soon as 2020.

Twice a year, my mom comes to visit me from Chicago and she always takes the train.  So, Amtrak is important to me because she is someone who doesn’t like to fly and isn’t really able to drive long distances.  Without this option, I wouldn’t get to see my mom as much!!!  So, I am personally vested in seeing the service here be the best that it can be.  Maybe you know of someone like my mom who enjoys this form of travel and uses it frequently.  If you are interested in helping on this project, please contact me or Ina McDowell with Main Street Texarkana and help us with this vital and often overlooked transportation option.  It’s one of the assets we have that we need to promote and defend!!!

It’s another great day at the Texarkana Chamber!  -Bill Cork

Amtrak Texarkana USA Ridership
Fiscal Year 2014 Year to Date
Station Name From Texarkana To Texarkana Total
Alton, IL 15 15 30
Alpine, TX 3 0 3
Arkadelphia, AR 7 6 13
Austin, TX 61 70 131
Benson, AZ 0 1 1
Bloomington-Normal, IL 68 55 123
Cleburne, TX 7 6 13
Chicago, IL 876 937 1,813
Carlinville, IL 4 7 11
Dallas, TX 419 426 845
Del Rio, TX 2 2 4
El Paso, TX 5 5 10
Fort Worth, TX 241 238 479
Hope, AR 32 42 74
Joliet, IL 58 53 111
Los Angeles, CA 168 176 344
Lincoln, IL 8 6 14
Lordsburg, NM 0 0 0
Little Rock, AR 136 106 242
Longview, TX 241 291 532
McGregor, TX 6 9 15
Marshall, TX 21 24 45
Mineola, TX 12 11 23
Maricopa, AZ 82 60 142
Malvern, AR 8 4 12
Ontario, CA 19 16 35
Poplar Bluff, MO 23 20 43
Pontiac, IL 9 5 14
Pomona, CA 0 2 2
Palm Springs, CA 2 3 5
San Antonio, TX 150 175 325
San Marcos, TX 35 35 70
Springfield, IL 93 79 172
St. Louis, MO 361 361 722
Taylor, TX 20 19 39
Temple, TX 41 43 84
Tucson, AZ 6 7 13
Walnut Ridge, AR 33 34 67
Yuma, AZ 0 0 0
Total 3,272 3,349 6,621

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


As I complete my fourth week as your Chamber President & CEO, I've had the opportunity to listen extensively to many voices with thoughts, opinions and directional suggestions for the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce.  It’s a great gift to be in this position…to be able to listen to what people have to say and to encourage them to say what’s on their mind.  I want to thank those of you who have taken the time to call, stop buy or meet with me formally.  “My listening tour” continues, and I encourage any partner that wants to chat with me to call the office and set up some time or to give me a ring on my cell phone at (903) 278-2886.  I especially want to hear from you if you are a “fallen away” partner.  We want you back.

While I begin to assimilate these ideas into future proposed plans of action for the staff and the partnership, it gave me some time to think about how I want to provide leadership to this organization.  It also gave me the opportunity to revisit good leadership models and to refresh my own perspective.  In that search, I came across this video.  Scott Williams does a fantastic job of motivating the question:  “Are you a Leader or a Manager?”, and he addresses why you might want to think about this question.  Please take 5 minutes to get a tune up on this important professional development concept and let me know what you think about it by commenting on this blog, posting a comment to Facebook or messaging me.  Share this with others who might benefit.

It’s a great day at the Texarkana Chamber!  I hope you have one wherever you are!

-Bill Cork

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Labor Reporting is the Key to Site Selection

In last week’s blog post we talked about the competitive landscape for large corporate site selection based on incentives.  The response we had was really great from emails to Facebook comments to calls we received from local folks who care about growing our region.  However, incentives are one of many key economic development drivers (and usually NOT the most important one!). 

The most important driver of economic development success is the quality of the talent and availability of our local workforce.  Texarkana has been blessed with abundant labor, people with a great work ethic and a willingness to go the extra mile to support their employer.  However the real match that employers are looking for is more nuanced than that.  Specific skills are critical.

To highlight how important this issue is please watch the attached video that was sent to us by one of our Chamber partners who works in economic development.  It’s time to ask the Arkansas and Texas Workforce agencies to answer the question: “What does our workforce look like and how do we position it to compete and win new companies in this global economy?”.  If we don’t have those answers ready, it’s time to get it done.

This site selector makes the case that we should sell to our skills instead of trying to “waste our time” trying to sell to a company that has a skills mismatch.