Business and political leaders tour Boeing building

Thursday, April 20, 2006
Touring: Randy Zook, chairman of the Central Ozarks Taskforce for Economic Development speaks to members and guests of NCARED as they tour the Boeing plant in Melbourne. Photo/Whitten

NCARED: Central Ozarks Taskforce for Economic Development Chairman Randy Zook speaks with Ozarka College President Dusty Johnston inside the Boeing plant in Melbourne April 11. Approximately 30 persons took the tour organized by NCARED. Photo/Whitten

Area business and political leaders got a firsthand look at the former Boeing plant in Melbourne after a meeting at Ozarka College's main campus on April 11.

North Central Arkansas Regional Economic Development coordinated the tour after a meeting at Ozarka College at which the area leaders were told similar closings could happen anywhere in the area.

According to NCARED board member Kenneth Ballman, the tour of the plant went well. "We knew it was a really big building," Ballman said. Ballman said they were divided into three groups of approximately eight to 10 people.

"It's a nice building. It's a shame we don't have anyone to move into it already," said Izard County Judge Rayburn Finley.


NCARED is a private corporation made up of persons interested in the economic growth of the seven-county area of Fulton, Izard, Baxter, Marion, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren counties. It generates its operating expenses through fund raising.

According to NCARED's Web site, the organization's purpose is to help in retaining and finding new industry and employment opportunities for the area as well as promoting economic growth and building a stable tax base. It provides information and assistance to businesses and individuals relocating to North Central Arkansas or considering relocating.

"These meetings are an opportunity to bring key leaders together. It's not about us, it's about what you want to see in the region," said Mark Peterson of the University of Arkansas Economic Development Department.

Maureen Rose, program associate of the University of Arkansas Economic Development Department, said the counties do not have a great track record of working together.

Rose and Peterson told attendees about the Breakthrough Solutions project, which the University of Arkansas and NCARED will be working on together. Breakthrough Solutions' goal is to bring economic and local leaders together in the counties and get local people involved in economic growth and development, Ballman said.

Chip Ellis, the mayor of Clinton, Ark., told the attendees about the closing of the Volex plant in his town, a case similar to what happened with Boeing in Melbourne. The power cord maker, which employed approximately 60 persons when it closed, sent its manufacturing to Mexico. "Nobody is safe," said NCARED board member Renee Douty.

An auction was held April 18 at the Boeing plant to sell the equipment and tools used at the factory.

The Boeing facility in Melbourne closed on April 13.

The plant, which operated in Melbourne since it opened as Douglas Aircraft in the 1960s, announced its closing in February. Boeing spokesman Chuck Cadena said the plant was unnecessary to Boeing's current manufacturing.

The Melbourne facility served as a repair station for Boeing doors and flight control. It provided maintenance, repair and overhaul services. A Boeing spokesperson said there was not enough of that type of work in Boeing.

Boeing has transferred the remaining work performed at the Melbourne facility to its operations in Salt Lake City.

Melbourne Mayor Mike Cone, who attended the NCARED meeting, and the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce appointed a task force in February to deal with the fallout of the closing of the Boeing plant in Melbourne. NCARED and the task force will work together in an attempt to find a new employer for the area. The building might be donated to the city, according to earlier statements by task force member Karla Rush.

The next meeting for NCARED is slated for May 5 at Ozarka.

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