Governor Hutchinson yesterday announced a $70,000 Military Affairs Grant Program award to the city of White Hall. The grant will go toward a joint land use study aimed at improving the military output at Pine Bluff Arsenal, first established as a U.S. Army installation in 1941, which continues to provide smoke ammunition and chemical defense equipment for the military.
In a press release issued by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Hutchinson said, “Supporting our military installations and having this type of initiative will ensure we remain competitive and valuable to national security.”
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This the first grant issued by an initiative, begun as a task force by Hutchinson in 2015 with upfront funding of $400,000, to expand the military’s economic footprint in Arkansas. In 2016, grant money was allocated to AEDC to establish the Military Affairs Grant Program “for projects and programs that strengthen and sustain military installations in Arkansas, resulting in economic growth in host communities, surrounding regions, and the State of Arkansas.” The task force added a full-time state staffer within AEDC, the Director of Military Affairs, in 2017. Retired Col. Rob “Gator” Ator took over the position this year, at a salary of $85,000.
“Having the state’s grant will allow us to enhance the Arsenal’s military value and strengthen ties with our congressional delegation and national military leaders,” White Hall Mayor Noel Foster said in the press release.
According to AEDC, the Pine Bluff Arsenal has an annual economic impact of $142 million, supporting 650 jobs.
If there’s one thing politicians can agree on, it’s military spending.