Economic boost for Helena-West Helena

    9:59 PM, Oct 21, 2011   |    comments
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    HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (KTHV) -- A Delta community seeing is seeing signs of a rebound.

    Recently rocked by "Operation Delta Blues," Helena-West-Helena took a major bite into the long-running suspected corruption around town. Federal prosecutors indicted 70 people in a drug trafficking case, including police officers. But in the days to follow that, the city also saw a double dose of good economic news.

    First off, there was the announcement of nearly 90 new jobs for the city, coming from both business expansion and new investment.  And secondly, there's a new financial pipeline, funneling help to start-ups and existing small businesses in the community. 

    "We do use steam to heat our process and that's steam being released from the system," managing partner Bernie Crowley said.

    It's part of the bio-diesel production at the Delta American Fuel plant in Helena-West-Helena. Crowley showed us the hometown business on Friday.

    "Right now, our numbers are about 30,000 gallons a day and that's with one shift," Crowley said.

    Crowley says they're planning for more with upcoming expansion, since bio-diesel's in demand.

    "We're looking to add 30 to 50 jobs by the end of the year, more likely closer to 50 than 30," Crowley said.

    It's growing the city's job base, along with three other businesses making news this week. One is from a California chemical company called Enviro Tech Chemical Services, Inc. It plans build a production facility with 30 jobs. And that's not all in town these days.

    "We just had our grand opening on Wednesday," Nathanial Owen said.  

    Nathanial Owen is a loan officer for Accion Delta, helping start-ups and small businesses in the region.

    "Our loans go from $500 from your home-based business just starting out to up to $250,000 for a well-established business," Owen said.

    The non-profit, micro-lender hopes to fill the gap when companies can't get full credit from banks.   

    "For small business owners, this is a big need so they've been looking for something like this," Owen said.  

    And Crowley feels, Helena-West Helena, a good place to start.      

    "The people that are here have a really strong work ethic and they really want something to happen," Crowley said.

    Crowley, who was born and raised in Helena-West Helena, also views the Operation Delta Blues bust as a good step forward for his hometown. He says many people knew there was a bad element around but as an average citizen you couldn't do anything about it.

    As for the loan program, Accion Delta is part of a larger Texas based micro-lending company. They've been around since 1994 and are approved by the Small Business Administration. Owen says about 65 percent of the company's funding comes from client payback and the rest donations. If you're interested in a loan, call (870) 519-9171.

    One of the other companies bringing jobs to the city is Quapaw Prodcucts, LLC. It plans to invest $1 million in its plant in Helena-West-Helena and add 18 jobs. The company manufactures specialty chemicals for industrial users.

    The last company is Southern Hardware Co. They've operated in Helena-West-Helena since 1914 and plan to invest $2.14 million in expansion and add nine new workers.

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