A meeting of community leaders will take place Thursday to discuss whether working with Southern Bancorp of Arkansas will benefit the local economy.
The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. at the St. Francis County Courthouse.
Southern Bancorp is a development bank holding company committed to helping transform rural economies.
“We’re meeting tomorrow in Forrest City at the request of the Walton Foundation,” said Phil Baldwin, chief executive officer of Southern Bancorp. He said County Judge Gary Hughes is the facilitator of the meeting.
Baldwin said Southern Bancorp works with the business community. He said that makes it different from the Foundation of the Mid-South, which he said works primarily with nonprofits.
“We know the power of the business community when it mobilizes itself,” said Baldwin. “Our effort is going to be based on that. What we want to talk about is, do you want to jump into a program again, from a different perspective. Maybe people will say no, in which case we’ll say okay and we’ll go away. We want to help if we can.”
David Dunn, executive director of the Forrest City Area Chamber of Commerce, said Southern Bancorp has assumed some of the responsibilities of the Foundation for the Mid-South.
“Maybe we can partner with them to try to support some workforce development,” he said.
Forrest City Mayor Gordon McCoy conceded that the project at the top of his list — infrastructure for the recently-annexed area around the Highway 1 bypass — is a large project that may not fit into the Southern Bancorp picture. However, he added that any help in economic development would be welcome.
It was recently announced that Southern Bancorp had received $11 million through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.