Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Regional Talent Retention and Economic Growth Strategy

Over the last several months, the Texas Workforce folks have been collaborating with area economic developers and some of our region’s employers to look at talent retention and regional economic growth strategies.

The project was funded by the Office of Economic Adjustment in the Department of Defense to look at a hypothetical downsizing of Red River Army Depot and to determine how our market would absorb the employees that would be affected.  However, the scope of this effort expanded to look at regional economic growth and talent retention more broadly.

As I’ve shared with you on previous blog postings, talent and workforce quality and quantity are leading indicators for attracting business to our market.  The final study on these issues was completed by Austin, TX consulting firm TIP Strategies.

You can read this gigantic two part study by clicking on these links:  TIP Strategies Report Part 1.  Tip Strategies ReportPart 2.

This study challenges all of us to do better.  At the Chamber we are undergoing some reorganization and new focus to address some of these critical gaps in economic development emphasis.  However, this report also gives us good news.  For example, our largest economic and jobs sector is manufacturing.  While many cities in the United States struggle with manufacturing jobs and attracting manufacturers, we are a strong manufacturing region.  This is one of the reasons why our economy has been so stable over even the roughest  recent economic times.  This is a coveted position to be in and we must do all that we can to retain and grow this vital part of our economy.

The other good news is that our workforce is well aligned with a number of growth industry segments including logistics/distribution, energy, machinery, transportation and fabricated metal manufacturing. 

We must however prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs in these industries and make sure we all understand that technology will continue to improve in manufacturing and distribution causing a decrease in jobs even in our local companies.  This improved productivity will make our region continue to be globally competitive but it will strain individuals whose skills don’t keep pace with market demand.  That means our employees have to be on their toes and continue to develop in their careers.

Please take the time to review these reports and spread the word.  It’s not every day that we have such a strong and comprehensive report card come out on our regional economy.  Educating ourselves on our strengths and weaknesses will make us all better in the long run.

- Bill Cork

Friday, October 24, 2014

North America: Dire States-Texas and Proposition 1

CASE, ASCO Equipment and the Dire States team joined forces with Texas Good Roads to tour the state and raise awareness to Proposition 1 - a ballot initiative in Texas that will direct approximately $1.7 Billion annually into road and bridge highway improvements.

The Texarkana USA Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Proposition 1 and the President & CEO, Bill Cork was given the opportunity to speak out!



Texarkana Business Journal - Election 2014 Special Episode

Join co-hosts Steve Mitchell and Bill Cork tonight, October 24th, at 6 p.m. on or 91.5 FM for another edition of the Texarkana Business Journal.  This hour long show will focus on all the key ballot questions and candidates in Texarkana USA.  Featured guests will include Paul Norton, TISD Superintendent, who will answer questions about the $29.9M TISD bond issue and Texarkana City Manager John Whitson who will answer questions about three of the City’s charter amendments that are on the ballot.  We will also talk with him abnout the Texas-side beer and wine sales proposition.  You don’t want to miss this episode as a key resource before you vote, but if you miss us on the air, you can listen to the archive of the show on or

Friday, October 17, 2014

Election 2014

We have an important election coming up and early voting in Arkansas and Texas begins October 20th.  Election Day is November 4th

There are a number of business related issues on the ballot that you should take the time to look at.  If you are like me, you probably follow some of the local individual candidate races and try to pick your favorites.  We see the yard signs and the ads.  Then we get to the ballot box and find a host of other candidates and issues that we are asked to vote on without much information upon which to base that vote.  In this week’s blog, we want to make you aware of what some of those issues are and provide resources for you to link over to in order that you may make some more informed decisions.

Let’s start with Texas, since their list is a little shorter:

STATE PROPOSITION 1.  This proposition involves the permanent use of a percentage of the oil and gas severance tax (often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund) to fund highway projects throughout all the TXDOT districts in the state.  Estimates place the initial tranche of available funding at about $1.7 billion, which is a down payment on about $5 billion in unmet needs.  The Texarkana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors endorses Prop 1.  For a  look at both sides of the issue please visit:,_Proposition_1_(2014)

Allowing Texarkana, Texas Beer and Wine Sales.  This perennial battle to make Texarkana “wet” will come to a head again this year.  The Chamber has not taken a position on this initiative.

AMENDMENT 3 - REVISING THE CITY CHARTER, ARTICLE VIII – BUDGET. This amendment modifies certain instructions to make them consistent with other accounting authorities, like the State of Texas and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.  It also requires the Council to Adopt an annual budget development calendar and to report all debt, not just bond debt.  It also allows budgetary funds transfer to be handled through an administrative action and allows the City Council to approve budget amendments while maintaining a balanced budget.  The Chamber has not taken a position on this.

AMENDMENT 5 – TERMS OF OFFICE FOR CITY ELECTED OFFICIALS.  Changes the term of office of city elected officials from two years to four years, staggering implementation of the change of the terms of office for the 2015 and 2017 regular City elections and extending by one year the current terms of office of the Mayor and Council members for Wards 1, 4, and 6 to facilitate transition to four year terms.  The Chamber has not taken a position on this.

Texarkana Independent School District Capital Bond Referendum.  TISD is seeking authority to borrow money to build some important school improvements.  To find out more about this topic, watch our extended interview with Mr. Paul Norton, Superintendent of TISD @  minute :42  The Chamber has not taken a position on this.

In Arkansas, there are 5 state wide ballot initiatives that are up for a vote and some of them are a bit complicated to understand.

Item 1.  EMPOWERING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO PROVIDE FOR LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF STATE AGENCIES’ ADMINISTRATIVE RULES. An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution providing that administrative rules promulgated by state agencies shall not become effective until reviewed and approved by a legislative committee of the General Assembly. Click here for a more detailed understanding of this initiative.

Item 2.  AN AMENDMENT ALLOWING MORE TIME TO GATHER SIGNATURES ON A STATE-WIDE INITIATIVE OR REFERENDUM PETITION ONLY IF THE PETITION AS ORIGINALLY FILED CONTAINED AT LEAST 75 PERCENT OF THE VALID SIGNATURES REQUIRED. Proposing an amendment to Article 5, Section 1, of the Arkansas Constitution concerning initiative and referendum; and providing certain requirements for the correction or amendment of insufficient state-wide petitions.  Click here for a more detailed understanding of this initiative.

Item 3.  THE ARKANSAS ELECTED OFFICIALS ETHICS, TRANSPARENCY, AND FINANCIAL REFORM AMENDMENT OF 2014.  To amend the Arkansas Constitution concerning elected state officials; prohibiting members of the General Assembly and elected constitutional officers of the executive department from accepting gifts from lobbyists, and defining key terms relating to that prohibition; prohibiting members of the General Assembly from setting their own salaries and the salaries of elected constitutional officers of the executive department, justices, and judges; establishing a seven member independent citizens commission to set salaries for members of the General Assembly, elected constitutional officers of the executive department, justices, and judges; establishing the appointment process for members of the independent citizens commission, and prohibiting members of the independent citizens commission from accepting gifts from lobbyists; prohibiting certain contributions, including contributions by corporations, to candidates for public office; prohibiting a member of the General Assembly from registering as a lobbyist until two (2) years after the expiration of his or her term; and establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly.  Click here for a more detailed understanding of this initiative.

Item 4.  THE ARKANSAS ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE AMENDMENT.  A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to provide that, effective July 1, 2015, the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors is lawful within the entire geographic area of each and every county of this state; that “intoxicating liquors” is defined for purposes of the amendment as any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of alcohol by weight; that the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors may be regulated, but not prohibited, by the General Assembly; and that all laws which conflict with the amendment, including laws providing for a local option election (wet-dry election) to determine whether intoxicating liquors may be sold or not sold, are
repealed to the extent that they conflict with the amendment. Click here for a more detailed understanding of this initiative.

Item 5.  AN ACT TO INCREASE THE ARKANSAS MINIMUM WAGE.  An act to amend the Arkansas Code concerning the state minimum wage; the act would raise the current state minimum wage from six dollars and twenty-five cents ($6.25) per hour to seven dollars and fifty cents ($7.50) per hour on January 1, 2015, to eight dollars ($8.00) per hour on January 1, 2016, and to eight dollars and fifty cents ($8.50) per hour on January 1, 2017.  Click here for a more detailed understanding of this initiative.

Please exercise your right and your responsibility to vote!!!!

- Bill Cork