The overwhelming topic right now is unemployment. That was according to Allison Hestand, director of economic development for the Economic Development Corporation of Paragould (EDC).
Hestand told last week’s EDC general membership meeting at the Community Center that Greene County is doing slightly better than Arkansas as a whole, even as both see unemployment fall toward pre-COVID-19 levels. “We’re at 4.2 percent right now,” she said. “We have about 1,800 unemployed in Greene County.”
Hestand added that information from the Department of Workforce Services suggested that 1,000 of those are expected to return to work in the June-July time frame.
Unemployment for both the county and the state hovered around 4 percent for the first three months of 2020, before spiking in April and May of last year at close to 11 percent. The rate has since been falling almost continuously since that spike.
Along those lines, Hestand said the Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce’s website paragould.org, has a link for jobs available, “Paragould Jobs,” under its “Economic Development” pull-down menu.
Hestand said of the May 18 Job Fair held at the Community Center, that she had gotten an email from one of the participating employers that said the company had given out 20 job applications, already hired four new employees, and had interviewed for an administrative assistant.
Among projects that have begun in the city, Hestand said, were ground-breakings for three major construction projects. “Anchor Packaging has announced a $21 million investment in our community,” she said. “They’re going to be hiring 45 new employees [and] they’ve never had a layoff in Greene County in the history of choosing our community.”
Another ground-breaking was that for the Paragould Light, Water and Cable solar panel farm at the intersection of Highways 69 and 358. “We’re already at 55 percent renewable energy,” Hestand said, “and this is in addition to that.”
The farm is planned to begin generating electricity by the end of July.
And there was the four-mile-long Eight Mile Creek Trail project. “It gives us another economic selling point,” she said.