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Sorrell ED appointment gets thumbs up from local officials

‘ I am very optimistic,’ says Marion counterpart

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News of the Phillip Sorrell appointment as the West Memphis Economic Development Director produced accolades from leaders in the county. Mike Demster holds the same position in Marion and reacted with warm words for Sorrell the now former city engineer. County Judge Woody Wheeless exuded optimism when he received the word. Mayor Bill Johnson shared the details of the selection process.

“We hired a national search firm to come up with some prospects for that job,” said Johnson. “I interviewed five people the firm recommended. Phillip was far better for this job than any of the five we interviewed. So after we did a regional search for a replacement, we found him right here at home.”

That was just fine for leaders outside the city too. As city engineer Sorrell worked with these leaders on areawide boards like the East Arkansas Planning and Development District and the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

In his four years heading Marion economic development, Demster has seen Sorrell at work.

“I’ve worked well with Phillip since I’ve been here,” said Demster. “He is a terrific guy, very well qualified. It sounds like a very good choice to me. We’ve worked together on the MPO. He has been very helpful to us on a lot of dif- ferent things.”

With Sorrell at the helm in West Memphis, Demster expected a broader positive economic spill over effect for the entire county.

“I am pleased with the appointment,” said Demster. “I am looking forward to working with him for the betterment of Crittenden County and the region.”

The unique asset of a deep water river port and development along the Friday-Graham rail spur adjacent to the port in the Gateway City will open new opportunities according to Demster.

“A lot of the work they’ve done at the port will have huge impact for the entire region,” said Demster. “We are in a regional economy. What is good for one (city) is good for the other. The more collaboration we have between players and municipalities in the region the better it is for everybody. I am very optimistic.”

The county judge has single handily managed some big economic deals in West Memphis, landing a new hospital with the Baptist Memorial Hospital system and bringing an economic boost with new jobs on the state payroll with the Arkansas Community Correction moving its women’s facility to West Memphis.

Wheeless pointed to Sorrell’s community service. Sorrell has a seat on the West Memphis School board too. The Judge sees West Memphis as primed and ready with Sorrell as the catalyst to ignite development.

“Phillip will do a great job,” said Wheeless. “He is definitely involved in the city and he knows what is going on. He is a great fit for that position. I look forward to working with him.”

Wheeless valued Sorrell’s contribution at the EAPDD and the MPO as well and sees potential in the $10.8 million TIGER IV grant landed by West Memphis.

“West Memphis is primed to have some good things happen in the next few years,” said Wheeless. “We’ll see some good growth and jobs created over the next three or four years there.”

By John Rech

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