Today is Part 4 of our “Candidate Conversations”, which is a six (6) part series that began on Friday and ends this Friday. The candidates answers to the leftover questions are presented to you during this series.
Today’s first question is:
In campaigns, candidates often talk about what needs to change. What is one thing about Crossett, besides the people and city employees, that you think is great and should be preserved, protected and promoted?
People is to be excluded from this question but there is really no way that I can do that. The make up of the people here in Crossett is where the pride is instilled. We are a small, rural town with a simple life. We enjoy that slow-paced atmosphere without the traffic delays and hustle and bustle of “big” city life. We all wave at each other and are greeted with smiles and candor. We have an election for Mayor right now and we are not hoping that we can get someone to run and help lead our city. We are enriched by 5 different candidates that all want Crossett to prosper, grow and improve and all truly love our town. The fact that Crossett has been a mill town has been a very positive attribute with higher than average wages and family income. We are able to live a comfortable life style and enjoy our family and friend time together. We are also a very giving community with many charitable groups that help the less fortunate as well. We truly believe that no one should ever be left behind or do without. We are not a town separated by hatred and discourse as we often see on the news stations. We all help each other and enjoy the opportunities to do so. Our small town has been blessed with beautiful churches, state of the art library, city pool, awesome sports plex, and the list goes on. It is what we make of it and for one, I feel very blessed to be a part of this city and community! I won’t retire in Florida or Hot Springs. My retirement home and loved community is right here in CROSSETT !!
Of all the things great about Crossett, I believe its history should be preserved, protected and promoted. Crossett started off as a lumber mill town. When the Crossett Company first came to Ashley County they began by buying up all the land they could buy at $1 per acre. The story goes that people were selling their land as fast as possible since they thought they would never get that much for their land ever again. It was told to me that Cap Gates let the owners of the Crossett Company know there were too many trees and they could not cut them fast enough, so a Lumber Mill was built to cut up the trees and the marketing of that lumber began.
It would be great if our students in the Crossett School District were taught the history of how hard the men and women worked to create such a great town. Yes, the land, houses and stores all belonged to the Crossett Company, but part of that history is the formation of the unincorporated areas of West Crossett, North and South Crossett. The old shotgun houses all painted in the color Crossett Gray and each with a white picket fence are all a part of our history which must be preserved.
I actually wonder why we cannot have another Lumber Mill move into town. I understand that GP went from a 50-year cycle to a 40-year cycle on the trees, and this is why we do not have those large pine trees any longer dotting our landscape. It became more important for the Mill to have pulp rather than the larger trees. What would happen if a Lumber Mill actually moved into the area and began to harvest what was left of those virgin pines, and at the same time began to manage the tree harvesting to enable the larger trees to flourish so as to provide the ample size of tree needed for lumber? Maybe Weyerhaeuser has some ideas for us to consider.
If we forget our history we cannot adequately plan for our future. While a Paper Mill, or even a Lumber Mill may never be in our future again, we must remember the hard work and perseverance of our early settlers who built and maintained our city. That hard work and determination must be what is preserved, protected and promoted.
Crossett has so many parts to it’s history and heritage that we really are very fortunate that we can reach so many people on so many levels. Our Timber history put us on the map and has been such a large part of forming the City as we know it. Although the log trucks aren’t rolling in like they used to, we still have loggers, truck drivers, and timbermen working to make a living for their families. These hard working men continue to put in long days as our Timber companies keep producing. As markets shift, so does industry. We’ve seen a big shift and it isn’t hard to see ahead to a time when we wont see as many log trucks or timber coming out of our area. As more crops like bamboo and hemp are being utilized for products that have traditionally been manufactured from wood we are seeing less forestry and more agricultural advancements. It’s those thoughts that make me say we should better preserve and honor our timber and sawmill roots.
We should develop a theme that better reflects the Forestry Capital of the South. We can promote Crossett and honor our heritage through activities and competitions. By reshaping the Annual Wiggins Cabin event into a multi-day event we can draw in more visitors and revenue. Put up some prize money for a little friendly competition. Sell some sponsorships to out of town Vendors as well as the Craft Booths that come yearly and let’s hold a lumberjack competition. We can do some log rolling in Lucas Pond, fire up some saws and cut some slabs, climb some poles, hold a chopping competition, have a cook off, eating competition, bike race, marathon, arm wrestling, and horseshoe throwing fill the park festival. Let the area celebrate our roots with activities that last for days. Hold the Classy Cruisers in conjunction with the event and hold a Midnight Cruise Friday and Saturday night. Bands can play after dark and maybe even have a battle of the bands in between headline acts. Use the ballfields and park area to host thousands of visitors from nearby areas. The Hotels and restaurants would be full, the people would enjoy it and it would be great to honor our heritage. Many more events could benefit from my expansion initiative too. As Mayor, I will help hold events that honor our past.
Vote Cosby for Crossett, #4 on the ballot, Kevin Cosby for Mayor
Crossett has a very rich and interesting history. While it is important to move forward in order to compete in the business world of bringing in more jobs to our community, it is vital to stay connected to our roots and what makes Crossett so special. The natural beauty of our town is spectacular as is our Main Street business district due to many of the buildings being reused instead of torn down and rebuilt, such as the original Bank of Crossett building which is now home to Weyerhauser. Preserving and restoring our historic buildings is so important and we are dedicated to doing all we can to hang on to these relics.
In addition to the historic architecture, the picturesque pond right in the heart of our town is such an incredible blessing! It’s a rare quality in a city to have such incredible outdoor living areas, where one can even boat and fish, right in the heart of town. We are so fortunate to have the amenities of a city while simultaneously maintaining that country feel. When family and friends visit they are often astounded at what a beautiful place we are able to call home! I am committed to cleaning up our gorgeous pond and have already begun with addressing the alligator grass in our pond. More work is planned to clean up the bank area around the entire pond as well as cleaning up the island. We are dedicated to polishing this gem and making it shine now and always.
Our second question for today is:
How do you plan to attract industry and other business to Crossett and insure existing businesses stay here and expand?
Business will not just happen along and ask if they can set up shop. There are too many communities that are in need of growth and jobs. Therefore, we must reach out to different arenas for business. As has been stated a few times already we need to send teams out to entice and attract those businesses. We must have a group with contacts that can reach out and capture what becomes available. Again, telling our story of the fiber availability, unmatched labor pool and the dedicated citizens can only offer a sense of security to those potential employers. We are truly a city of successful people that can create growth for a company and create value with the available commodities we can offer. We have an Economic Development team that can reach out and work with different employers to bring in manufacturing sites but it will also take city government support to put the exclamation point on the conversation. We need Mayoral and city council involvement so that each member has a thorough knowledge and understanding of what is going on in our town. The more knowledge they have the better prepared we can be when issues arise. I spent time today with our newest business addition to Crossett and they are super excited to be here and begin a new chapter of growth. It will simply take the city’s support and guidance to get them through the initial hurdles of starting up an operation. I feel very good about our future and what we can do with Crossett growth.
I would begin by vising the Companies in our town, such as Hood Packaging, GP and the new Cynergy Cargo Company and asking two things: (1) what do you like about your position here in Crossett, and (2) what will it take for us to make sure you stay in our city? If you never ask, you will never know. I want to know what the City of Crossett can do to make sure the current businesses are happy and excited about staying in our town. I would then use that information when talking with other Companies who might consider coming to town. We also need to know if there is something we as a city can do to improve our relationship with the existing businesses to entice them to say and expand.
In today’s market a City and County must be prepared to offer huge tax relief discounts to potential businesses. When a business is considering the options of where to locate they consider many items, some of which are (1) the potential labor pool, (2) the initial cost of building or leasing a structure to house their operations, (3) the cost of transporting their supplies into town and their products out of town, and (4) taxes. Whether we like to admit it or not, taxes are a huge expense to a company, so anything a city can do to lower those costs to a potential business for the first 10 to 20 years can be a huge incentive when deciding where to locate.
From all that I’ve gathered in talking with friends who own businesses, they want to know they are appreciated. Some people, even the employees of a business, are often so critical of a business that supports so many families and pay huge amounts of taxes to the City and County. There is a town in Southeast Missouri I know well, and the town made so many critical and needless complaints about the business that the company just shut down and moved their operations to another town. There is a rather large Fortune 500 company whose CEO moved their entire headquarters from a big city in the Midwest to a large city in Texas because a Country Club in that Midwest city would not let the CEO join their Club because of his race. The loss of revenue and jobs to that large city have never been recovered.
As Mayor I will make it a point to visit with the leaders of the businesses here in Crossett to let them know how much we appreciate their existence and how much we want them to stay. I will ask them the question, “what can we do to make it more convenient for you to do business here in Crossett?” I want them to know they are appreciated and respected for what they do and what opportunities they provide for our residents. I know that if I was a CEO of a business, I would make a point to call the other businesses in a particular city I am considering to move or establish my business and ask, “what do you like about Crossett?” I would hope that Crossett’s reputation with the existing businesses would be so overwhelming that such a CEO would say to their Board, “I think Crossett would be a great choice for us. The existing businesses report to me that this city really appreciates them being there and work very hard to provide all they need to continue being productive and prosperous.”
My hope is that you will give me the chance as Mayor to make such a difference for our town. It will take hard work, a lot of phone calls and a lot of visiting with people, but that’s what I will do.
Thinking outside the box is necessary when your present approach isn’t working like it should. Crossett offers so much in the way of competitive taxes, real estate values, labor costs, insurance rates, and personnel availability that any business model should be able to start up and succeed here. Retaining the business and keeping it viable for growth are the challenge. As the internet competes with local business, more people obtain their goods online. More people are working from home during the recent pandemic and job creation has become even more of a challenge for many Cities across this great nation. Crossett has seen it’s job base shrink but our talent pool is growing. The CHS graduates that aren’t heading off to college need employment and Crossett area businesses would like to grow to employ more of them.
By forming a Business Retention, Expansion, and Development team made up of local business owners and professionals who have a vision of job creation, we can put a better focus on the existing businesses in Crossett. The focus can be to expand offerings and streamline services to better compete with other businesses. By looking at successful projects in other communities, we can borrow and enact proven practices. Partnering with professionals from around the Country, we can enlist help to educate and prepare business models to better compete and grow. We can offer incentives for Crossett residents and graduates to open business here and to assist with the process. The BRED professionals can research better training, funding, and job placement. The team can take part in training opportunities offered through Arkansas Economic Development. One course is to help businesses by training for Government Bids and Procurement opportunities. Many businesses in Crossett could benefit by looking at State and Federal contract opportunities. With an expansion team working to help bring in those contracts, many jobs can be created. Existing business is easier to expand than recruiting new business but new business is essential to growth too. By targeting industry segments that are growing nationwide we can offer new opportunities to business owners who can expand their offerings or help start up new local owned operations. It’s essential to compliment what Crossett’s Economic Development group is working on and together a multi-faceted approach can better Market and grow our community. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S. and Crossett needs to be ready to take advantage of the potential opportunities. Industrial developments and advancing technologies are changing the landscape for American Made products. Let’s help shape Crossett as a manufacturing and development leader. We can embrace more opportunities with a more active approach.
I have been in sales and marketing for most of my life. When my parents had me follow customers around, holding a tray for plants, I learned how to help meet peoples needs and increase sales. I’ve been successful selling for many companies, mainly because I believed in the product. I believe in Crossett! I will market and promote Crossett like has never been done before. As Mayor, I will be our top sales agent for our town. I will generate jobs and growth.
We already have a professional group of Trial Builders, Rogue Trails, that is committed to building world class Mountain bike trails around Lucas Pond. Their impact alone will create the need for a business and jobs to support the increased demands of visiting trail riders. My partnership with Troy Burleson, a prominent shooting Instructor, World renown Martial artist and law enforcement trainer, will allow Crossett to build a program that can bring in professionals from all over to take part in training seminars as well as train our Police officers to a higher level. His training and partnership could lead to the building of a Crossett Shooting Sports Facility. As we incorporate more professionals into the mix we will focus on the Sports programs and develop them to a new level. We will keep the Sports Complex busy with more games and tournaments than have ever been held there. Numerous local coaches and tournament promoters have reached out to me to be on board to better utilize our complex. We will build additional fields and grow opportunities here, locally. This will fill our hotels and restaurants and generate much needed revenue for our town. Please get on board and join me in this quest for success. Crossett can be better than ever!!
Recruitment and retention of businesses and citizens is always a priority, but after our community received the announcement of layoffs last summer it became critical we increase these efforts from many directions.
We are blessed in Crossett with an incredible talent pool, abundance of natural resources, easily accessible port and airport, railroad, a new four lane highway, and a community that perseveres despite the most arduous of challenges. The upcoming wastewater infrastructure project is another piece of the puzzle to further elevate, not only our ability to provide new industry a home with increased water processing capacity, but better support our existing businesses on that system. Marketing all that Cossett has to offer is an important role for Mayor. They should advocate for their community both in partnership with the Economic Development Foundation and the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, and as a CEO of the City. The power of a phone call should never be minimized as one never knows what businesses deal may stem from a simple conversation.
Perhaps the largest infrastructure gap in not only our community, but across our country is the lack of quality, reliable, stable broadband internet. Our internet instability not only impacts companies looking to relocate, but also affects our current businesses, healthcare, and our education system. This was an issue before Covid-19, but now it’s crucial as we have moved so many things from meetings and education to doctor’s appointments to a virtual setting. The government’s recognition of the crippling effect this lack of service has on rural areas led them to allocate approximately $27,000,000 in grant funding in Arkansas for this initiative. Working together with our partners at the Municipal League and the Governor’s State Broadband Office, I’ve begun the grant application process for Crossett. The competitive advantage this could give us over other towns our size has the potential to change the landscape of Crossett forever.
Another important factor in any economy is attracting visitors through events. When we host events like the rodeo or even the monthly farmer’s market event, we generate revenue not only from our community members, but from outside our borders pumping more money into our town.
Realizing how important this was, Mayor McCormick and I worked to add an Events Planning/Assistant Parks and Rec role for our city. This has paid tremendous dividends as their talents have brought so much energy and excitement to Crossett that will continue long into our future. Our city park, disc golf course, sports complex, beautifully remodeled swimming pool and more are underutilized revenue generators for our community. Working with our innovative Parks and Recreation crew and our incredibly resourceful citizens, we can continue working together to capitalize on all Crossett has to offer.
While working to push Crossett forward into the future is vital, it is also important to analyze current processes for opportunities to increase efficiency and maximize the output of tax dollars. Our team is dedicated to this objective and collaborates regularly on how to improve processes. During my ten year career with Corporate Walmart, I became a believer in one of Mr.Sam Walton’s most famous quotes “ Listen to your employees. They’re the best idea generators”. This was true at Walmart and is true here at The City of Crossett.
Through these initiatives we can continue to work together to make Crossett a place more businesses, industries, and citizens choose to call home. Together We Can!
Stay tuned tomorrow as we continue our “Candidate Conversations” series! Same time, same place!