Friday, November 21, 2014

COMING SOON: Holiday Shopping Passports

We are constantly striving for more ways to encourage local commerce and support our member businesses.  This holiday shopping season, we are not only encouraging people to shop local... we're giving them an incentive to do so, and at NO COST to shoppers OR our members.

Starting on Small Business Saturday (November 29) and running through the Friday before Christmas, we will launch our first Holiday Shopping Passport.  As local shoppers visit any Chamber member business, they can check off their passport boxes and can earn a special prize once it's filled up.

These FREE Holiday Shopping Passports will be available for pickup at the Chamber office and in select local businesses to be announced.  More information, including when passports area available and locations to get yours, will be available at

Thank you for your continued support of your Chamber and local businesses.  As always, shop small & buy local this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mississippi County Christmas Parades Information

**Updated 12/9/14 at 9:00 a.m.**

The holiday season is right around the corner, and there are several Christmas parades slated for our area.  We have listed them all below in chronological order:

Friday, December 5 RESCHEDULED to Tuesday, December 9
WILSON - 6:00 p.m.
Contact 870-655-8311
Entry form available on Town of Wilson Facebook page.
Free entry, but deadline is November 21.

Friday, December 5
BLYTHEVILLE - 6:30 p.m.
Contact the Greater Blytheville Area Chamber 870-762-2012
Entry forms available on the Greater Blytheville Chamber Website
Free entry, but deadline is December 4.

Saturday, December 6
ETOWAH - 4:00 p.m.
Contact Etowah City Hall 870-531-2340
Free entry, no deadline.

Saturday, December 6
OSCEOLA - 6:00 p.m.
Contact Michelle Weldon at 870-815-9999
Entry forms available from Main Street Osceola and Hawk's Auto Service.
Free entry, but deadline is December 1.

Saturday, December 6
MANILA - 6:00 p.m.
Contact Susie Baker at 870-561-4437
Free entry, deadline is December 3.

Friday, December 12
KEISER - 6:00 p.m.
Contact City Hall at 870-563-2300
Free entry, no deadline.

Saturday, December 20
DYESS - 6:00 p.m.
Contact Pam 870-974-2083
Free entry, deadline December 19.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Osceola Police Department To Hold 9th Annual Make-A-Wish Poker Run

The 9th Annual Osceola Police Department Make-A-Wish Motorcycle Poker Run will be held on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Both motorcycles and cars will meet up at Osceola High School, located at 2750 W Semmes Ave, at 9:00 a.m. to gather and parade through town.

The OPD fundraising partnership with the Mid-South Chapter of Make-A-Wish began locally in September of 2006. Since that time, over $125,000 has been raised within Mississippi County to grant 17 wishes for children ranging in ages from 3 to 17. Last year alone, the OPD raised over $27,000 for Make-A-Wish.

Entry for this year’s Poker Run is $20 in advance or $25 the day of the event, which includes one hand, lunch, and a commemorative tee shirt while supplies last. An auction will immediately follow lunch.

For more information, call 870-622-7060, 870-622-4943, or 870-563-5213. To register, mail completed forms to:
OPD Poker Run
Attn: Cathey Willbanks
401 W Keiser
Osceola, AR 72370
Forms are available for pickup at the Osceola Police Department.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. For more information about the Make-A-Wish foundation or to register a child, visit

The City of Osceola is a proud member of the Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MissCo Tourism: We have a lot to offer!

Tourism is a very viable industry in Arkansas, hosting more than 23 million visitors, sustaining nearly 60,000 direct travel-related jobs, and bringing in $5.9 billion in revenue in 2013 alone (source).  With better promotion of existing offerings and new incoming area features, Mississippi County is poised to become a bigger part of state tourism.

The history of the Dyess Colony project, what it did for families during the Great Depression, and the scores of people that found hope in their future is gorgeously presented in the Administration Building. It paints a picture of a lifestyle not too many years gone. When visiting the Cash home, visitors can take that information and imagine living in the house during that period, looking out the kitchen window at the crop that was providing for their family, sharing a bedroom with their siblings or parents, gathering at the piano to enjoy mama's playing because it was the only entertainment one could afford (but still loved it), sitting on the porch enjoying the quiet breeze in the fall, and huddling around the wooden stove in the cold winters. One does not have to be a Johnny Cash fan to appreciate the historical significance of the home, or the painstaking accuracy taken in its restoration. It is just a pretty big added bonus that it happens to be the boyhood home of such an influential musician

Our area has many notable attractions, from the restored art deco Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Blytheville to Sans Souci Park on the Mississippi River in Osceola, or the quaint Tudor-style square in Wilson to Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Manila. However, there is not a solitary ace in the hole tourist destination that on its own has the power to pull people off the interstate, travel from all over the area, possibly even the country, and take time to visit Mississippi County. What we DO have is a rich collection of all sorts of interesting things that, when put together, truly does make our area a very rich place to visit or make your home. Whether you are looking for things to do as a family, or are interested in war history, or are a music buff or just enjoy the outdoors, Mississippi County has something for everyone.

If you think, "there is nothing to do here," we would like to highlight some of the different ways our county can draw interest:

The legendary Blues Highway 61 runs like a vein through our county, making music heritage the biggest influence of our area, second only to agriculture. The aforementioned Johnny Cash boyhood home is just one point of interest. Dyess is also home to Gene Williams, a major player in the Nashville scene. Wilson currently hosts a concert series, featuring a variety of musicians. Osceola has ties to a variety of blues musicians, including Albert King, Son Seals, and the annual Osceola Heritage MusicFest is a weekend of rock, blues, country and folk on the courthouse lawn. Blytheville is the home of the oldest radio station west of the Mississippi River, which played some of the biggest musicians while they were still unknowns pushing for the chance for airtime. Blytheville also hosts an annual Mayfest event with music and fun for the family.

We boast some of the best options for those that enjoy the great outdoors. Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Manila boasts natural beauty, fishing and hunting. Just south of Osceola, Sans Souci Park is arguably the best Mississippi River outlook in Arkansas. It boasts an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ramp for boat fishing access, several picnic pavilions to enjoy a picnic with near panoramic view of the Mighty Mississippi. In Blytheville, we have the relaxing Walker Park where you can enjoy a walk or feed the geese. Options for golf are also abundant in Mississippi County, with the Osceola Municipal Golf Course, Blytheville Country Club, Thunder Bayou and Big Lake Country Club.

History buffs also have many things to pique their interest. Throughout the county, we have over 30 buildings and sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 36 Cotton Highway historical markers in the southern half of the county alone, plus numerous others with historical significance. We also have the Mississippi County Historic and Genealogical Society Museum in Osceola, Hampson Archaeological Museum and State Park in Wilson and the Delta Gateway Museum in downtown Blytheville. Sans Souci Park, mentioned above, is also the site the Battle of Plum Run Bend, one of only two Civil War gunboat battles. Herman Davis Memorial State Park in Manila honors Private Herman Davis, a native who is considered one of the top heroes of World War I. Bassett was the site of a World War II POW camp, where Germans were housed and taught to work with agriculture. The gates to the camp still stand along Highway 61.

Families are more than welcome in Mississippi County. Both Blytheville and Osceola feature wonderful

sports complexes with baseball fields that feature year-round team sports. Manila is now the site of a public access water park. Playgrounds are a part of several parks, including Walker Park in Blytheville, Florida Park in Osceola and Hampson State Park in Wilson. Blytheville also has a roller-skating rink and bowling alley for your enjoyment.

We have a great selection of dining and shopping opportunities throughout the county. For unique finds, check the shops of Downtown Blytheville, Downtown Osceola, or on the beautiful square in Wilson.

For the literary fan, Sans Souci also inspired Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. Or travel to the infamous That Bookstore in Blytheville to browse an eclectic collection of works. You might get lucky and meet the up and coming author, or sometimes famous writers such as John Grisham.

The next big trend in tourism is agritourism, and we have that too. You can be anywhere in our county and be within 10 minutes of a horizon of cotton fields and breathtaking sunsets that will rival anywhere in our country. Whitton Farms in Whitton offers informative visits to their organic farm, which supplies local residents and at least two restaurants with quality fresh produce. Adams Gin in Leachville is the world's largest cotton gin. Just a little beyond our county border is Tyronza, which is the site of the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum.

As you can see, when all put together, we have a pretty impressive slate to offer. Trip to the moon? No. A great place to make memories for a few days or a lifetime? Absolutely.

Many people say that perception is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome when attracting tourists or new residents to our area. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that often the negative perception is not created by outsiders looking in, but is instead incubated within our residents. We have a variety of truly unique and interesting destinations in Mississippi County, but it is not the amenities or beauty or history that makes or breaks our perception. As citizens, leaders, parents, friends, family and media, only WE are responsible for the impression that people have on our communities. We hope and encourage others to see that we really do have a lot to offer as a county, and help spread the community pride to those interested in the area, or more importantly, to those that are already here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mississippi County Unveils Roadmap for Community Revitalization

BLYTHEVILLE, ARK. – A yearlong collaboration of Mississippi County’s private and public sectors culminated in the unveiling of the county’s first Delta Bridge Project Strategic Plan on Tuesday. The celebration included local leaders, funders, and a special address from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Executive Director, Grant Tennille, who welcomed the plan to the community.

The Delta Bridge Project, which is funded by the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, one of the South’s most impactful philanthropic organizations, and by Southern Bancorp, one of the nation’s leading rural development banks, is a community led plan for revitalizing the county’s social and economic sectors with the goal of providing a stronger, brighter future for all Mississippi County residents.

Click here to download a PDF of the
Mississippi County Strategic Community Plan
“We’re excited to be part of this new phase in Mississippi County’s social and economic growth,” said Steve Jones, Senior VP of Programs for Southern Bancorp Community Partners. “The energy and determination in this community have been clearly exhibited over the past year as the community came together around the core idea of making Mississippi County an even better place to live, work, and grow.”

The planning process, which was first initiated in Phillips County, Arkansas in 2003 by Southern Bancorp, proved so successful that it was subsequently launched in Clark County, Arkansas as well as Sunflower and Coahoma Counties in Mississippi.

“Southern Bancorp has seen the impacts firsthand that the Delta Bridge Project can have on a community, from increasing opportunities for youth to building stronger economic development supports to creating a safer place to live,” said Jones. “And with the catalytic support of the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation behind this project, I know we have the necessary ingredients to make this plan a reality.”

The project’s origins can be traced to 2011, when Southern Bancorp first entered the Mississippi County marketplace. As is the practice of the mission-driven community development bank, an examination of the needs of the community was started. Southern realized early on that for such an ambitious plan to be successful in the county with such a large geographic size, that a strong philanthropic partner would be critical. That partner was found in the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation.

“When Southern approached us about providing the initial funding for this project, our board quickly realized the impact potential,” said Michelle Monse, President of the King Foundation. “We see in this part of the state, and this plan, the greatest opportunity to improve the overall quality of life in a way that honors both the Kings’ values and the philanthropic legacy that is our privilege to steward.”

The plan contains ambitious, yet attainable, goals for the county over the next ten years in the areas of Economic Development, Education, Housing, Quality of Life, Leadership, and Health and Wellness.

“While some of the plan’s objectives will take significant time and planning, others are already being achieved,” said Jones, referring to the recent remediation of 18 dilapidated properties around the county. “We’re cleaning up the county and getting it ready to put its best foot forward.”

The plan will be implemented by community led “Goal Teams” who have been integral in its creation. Made up of broad cross sections of the community, these teams will be responsible for shepherding the plan’s goals and activities.

For more information about the Delta Bridge Project plan, visit

Southern Bancorp is one of America’s largest rural development banks, serving over 80,000 customers at 39 branches in both Arkansas and Mississippi. Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities; empowers them to improve their lives; and helps them transform their communities.
On the web at and

Carl B. and Florence E. King started the Foundation that bears their names in 1966. Beginning with gifts from Mr. and Mrs. King, as well as a later bequest from their daughter, Dorothy, the Foundation has now grown to more than $50 million in assets and distributes approximately $2 million per year. The Foundation is committed to the highest standards of philanthropy and to honoring the original intent of the generous founders.
On the web at

Article by Delta Bridge Project

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Osceola to Participate in Clean-Up Initiative

OCAH Organizing Litter Pickup for April 25-May 24, 2014
Volunteers needed to help keep Osceola beautiful

Osceola, AR (April 15, 2014) – Volunteers are needed to participate in OCAH’s first annual spring community improvement April 25-May 24, 2014. Sponsored by OCAH, Osceola/SMC Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Osceola, the cleanup is being held in conjunction with the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup in Arkansas (GAmC), the annual spring statewide litter pickup campaign promoted by Keep Arkansas Beautiful (KAB). 

“Litter continues to be a problem in Osceola,” said Debra Felske of Osceola, local coordinator of this year’s cleanup. “It can leave a negative impact on our community for years to come. By participating in this year’s Great American Cleanup in Arkansas, local residents can help make Osceola a vibrant community."

Everyone in Osceola is encouraged to participate in this year’s community improvement effort. Civic and service organizations, church and youth groups, school groups and clubs, scouts, individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses can organize cleanup teams and pitch in.

Local organizations are encouraged to choose an area of town for either litter removal or a beautification project.  OCAH will be providing a limited number of trash bags and gloves.  Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own supplies also.  Sign-up sheets will be available at the Chamber and Main Street offices.  A city wide clean-up day is scheduled for May 24 at the conclusion of this month long event.

“Community pride is everyone’s responsibility,” Felske said. “We all live in this community together and must work together to keep it clean and green. We do this to maintain our quality of life, to create a place we can all be proud of and to improve our local economy.” 

About the Great American Cleanup
The national kickoff for the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup is March 1. Local Great American Cleanup events are being organized in March, April and May. Activities will include beautifying parks and recreation areas, cleaning waterways, collecting recyclables, picking up litter, planting trees and flowers, and conducting educational programs and litter-free events. This year’s national Great American Cleanup is sponsored by Altria, Dow Chemical Company, Glad Products Company, Phillips 66, Troy-Bilt® Lawn and Garden Equipment and Waste Management.

About Keep Arkansas Beautiful
As a certified state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful Inc., Keep Arkansas Beautiful works to inspire and educate individuals to reduce litter, recycle and keep Arkansas beautiful. It operates as a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and is overseen by a nine-member commission appointed by the governor. KAB is funded by 1 percent of the eighth-cent conservation tax and, by mobilizing volunteers, returns to the state a cost benefit of more than $6 in community service for each program dollar spent. For more information about KAB, visit or stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful Inc., established in 1953, is the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. With a network of nearly 1,000 affiliate and participating organizations, Keep America Beautiful builds vibrant communities through public-private partnerships and programs that engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community’s environment. To learn more about Keep America Beautiful, visit

Information Contact: 
Debra Felske, GAmC Coordinator
Osceola Center for Arts and Heritage 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Osceola/SMC Chamber launches Federation Partnership with U.S. Chamber

The Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce is continuously looking for ways to provide
our members with additional services and resources. Today, we are excited to announce a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that welcomes nearly 200 of our members, through their existing membership with our chamber, as a new member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at no additional cost.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation and 96% of their members are small businesses. Through businesses' membership with the U.S. Chamber, they will have access to the many valuable benefits designed specifically for small businesses, including the toolkits available on Small Business Nation, news and advocacy updates, and other products, services, and publications.

In the coming week, those that qualified will receive an email directly from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce providing our members with information on how to access the many resources now available.

For more information on this partnership or to become a member of the Osceola/SMC Chamber of Commerce, please email Ammi Tucker at

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Business Workshops next week in Osceola

The ASU Small Business & Technology Development Center, in partnership with the Osceola/SMC Chamber, will be hosting two workshops next week to benefit both existing and potential small businesses and entrepreneurs.  The courses are open to anyone that wishes to attend, and members of the Osceola/SMC Chamber receive $5 off of the regular registration price.

Though the events will be held in the Chamber facilities, event registration is through the ASBTDC.  Online registration links are below the description for each respective course. Participants must register at least 24 hours prior to each course, so click over now and sign up today!

Tuesday, March 18
9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Osceola/SMC Chamber of Commerce
116 N Maple
Osceola, AR 72370
Find out the major steps crucial to starting a business, identify key issues that affect your business success, and discuss start-up requirements as well as common pitfalls you may face as an entrepreneur. Learn what to do to be successful -- before you open the doors! 
Event fee $30
Chamber members $25
ASU Faculty, Staff, Students $15
Veterans FREE

Tuesday, March 18
1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Osceola/SMC Chamber of Commerce
116 N Maple
Osceola, AR 72370
This seminar will explain how and where to get financing for prospective and existing businesses. Credit requirements, places to go for funding and the Small Business Administration's loan guaranty program will be presented.
Event fee $35
Chamber members $30
ASU Faculty, Staff, Students $17.50

The Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center has helped small Businesses and entrepreneurs launch, grow and succeed for 30 years from the Delta to the Ozarks.  This is a great opportunity for both existing and prospective business owners.

For more information, please contact Lois Travis or Abbi Siler at 870-972-3517, or or, respectively.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Osceola Mayor Talks New Industry, Jobs at Chamber Luncheon

The Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce held its first Member Lunch on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, in the Harold Ohlendorf Civic Center.  Over 70 business, industry, and community leaders came out to enjoy a delicious lunch catered by member Riverlawn Country Club and to hear Mayor Dickie Kennemore give the State of the City Address.

He began his program with general updates about the City of Osceola budget.  He showed the group that in comparison to 2013's budget, the city should recognize a $1,776,534 net increase in profits this year through both increases and revenue and reduction of expenses.  He noted that this was due to various department heads operating more efficiently and reduction of wages through attrition.  

The presentation then moved to many updates regarding industrial developments.
Map showing boundaries for existing and future industrial developments. Clockwise from bottom left: Evonik Cyro (existing, purple) American Greetings (existing, light blue), Indigo Resources LTD (future, dark blue), Plum Point Energy Station (existing, red), Bunge Corporation (existing, gold), Viskase Corporation (existing, pink), Big River Steel (future, yellow). Photo from the Mayor's presentation.

Blue Oak, a high tech recycling facility, was the first to be discussed.  The company will work to reclaim five precious metals found in circuit boards from a variety of electronics.  There are only six facilities such as this in the world, none of which are in the United States.  Kennemore also noted that those that do exist are repurposed recycling facilities, often having outdated technology and thus not recognizing maximum efficiency.  Blue Oak will be state of the art, bringing approximately 75 high paying technical jobs.  The project is anticipated to begin preliminary organization in the next 60-90 days.

Next, Kennemore gave information on Indigo Resources, the rail-to-barge oil terminal to be situated just north of Plum Point Energy Station.  Oil will be imported from Canada and North Dakota on rail cars, transferred to barge at the Osceola terminal, and transported to refineries in Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, and Houston.  Indigo is expected to fill 225 jobs, and will break ground on April 1, 2014.

Kennemore then explained that with this kind of industry, there is some risk due to needed maintenance or inspection of rail cars.  When you consider the large amount of rail cars used by PPES and to be used by Indigo and Big River Steel, there will be quite the demand for a facility that can help in this respect.  The group was surprised when he announced that they are working to bring a tank car inspection and repair business to the former Fruit of the Loom site, and the 70,000 tank cars in need of inspection and repair will create 300 to 400 jobs, many in welding.  Scrap cars will be delivered to Big River Steel.

The presentation then shifted to an update on Big River Steel.  He gave a report on the recent meeting last Friday with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, in which the agency lifted the construction stay on the project.  Though the air permit hearing still has to take place, he explained that this is a major and positive step forward by allowing BRS to begin preliminary site work.  The air permit appeal hearing is tentatively set for February 18, with a final decision to be made on or before March 31, 2014.  The plant is to bring approximately 525 jobs.

He also shared data about the steel industry and an article in Fortune magazine with Charles Koch of Koch Industries.  In it, Koch discusses their reasons for investing in BRS, one being that it will be the only large-scale producer of electrical-grade steel in the United States, which will be used to make transformers, power lines, and other equipment used in specialty grids of tomorrow.
"The New Koch" by Christopher Leonard, Fortune Magazine, January 13, 2014.

With all of the new industrial developments happening in Osceola, Kennemore discussed plans for accommodating infrastructure improvements, including water, sewage, rail spurs, and more.

Kennemore closed his presentation with discussing his goal of securing a new electric provider contract.  The current contract with Constellation expires December 31, 2014, and the city is looking to negotiate a 20-year full requirements contract with a new company to have in place on January 1, 2015.  He explained that a $0.02 reduction would generate an additional $2.4million surplus for Osceola Municipal Light and Power.  With this additional profit, the City will explore options including but not limited to rate reduction, increased services, and a new recreation complex such as a water park.

The Chamber was very happy with both the turnout and the very informative presentation.  The organization looks to host the luncheon series on a quarterly basis.  For more details about the next luncheon, event, or general information about the Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce, contact Executive Director Ammi Tucker at or 870-563-2281.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Big River Steel gets OK to begin preliminary construction

Friday, January 24, 2014

Big River Steel is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) lifted the construction stay on Big River during a meeting in Little Rock early this morning (Friday).

Osceola Mayor Dickie Kennemore explained this does not mean the air permit has been approved, but it does mean John Correnti, CEO of Big River, can begin the preliminary construction phase such as soil tests etc.

"This is good news for the project," Kennemore said.

An administrative law judge has tentatively scheduled a Feb. 18 hearing on the appeal for the air permit.
Big River Steel, a $1.1 billion project, has promised to create at least 525 permanent jobs with an average wage of $75,000 in exchange for $125 million in state financing and other tax breaks. BRS will be built on the banks of the Mississippi River just south of Osceola.

Redistributed with permission from Sandra Brand. Original article link: