An upgraded airport are among the many transportation advantages in Jefferson County.
Pine Bluff Municipal Airport-Grider Field has been “plane” busy lately, especially since a $1 million renovation to its overall facility. A big part of the renovation involved an upgrade to its long-standing terminal building.
“When a company lands at your airport in a $5 million jet, you want a nice facility to welcome them, and the airport terminal building is often the first impression these corporate executives get of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County,” says Doug Hale, manager of Pine Bluff Municipal Airport-Grider Field. “In the near future, we’ll also be upgrading our parking ramp so we can welcome even more planes and jets.”
Grider Field is a general aviation facility that accommodates personal, military and corporate aircraft. Major area employers that fly in and out of the airport include Brookshire’s, Dollar General, Evergreen Packaging, Fred’s, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Lowe’s, the Pine Bluff Arsenal, Union Pacific, Walmart and Wheeling Machine Products.
“It’s primarily company clients who use our airfield,” Hale says. “Most have their own aircraft, and we have about 50 planes on site. Our No. 1 purpose is to accommodate businesses and corporate travelers.”
For travelers needing a commercial airline, Jefferson County residents can fly out of Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, about a 40-minute drive from Pine Bluff via Interstate 530 and interstate connectors.
Jefferson County has other strong transportation assets, such as Class I rail service provided by Union Pacific and BNSF, while companies shipping by water have access to the Arkansas River through the Port of Pine Bluff. For trucking companies, main thoroughfares serving the region are I-530 as well as U.S. routes 63, 65 and 79, and U.S. highways 270 and 425.
Several recent infrastructure improvements along the south side of I-530 in Pine Bluff are presenting new opportunities for commercial development, thanks in large part to the recent opening of another section of State Highway 530 connecting with I-530. The new highway now extends 18 miles between Pine Bluff and State Highway 114 in neighboring Lincoln County.
State Highway 530 marks the partial completion of a traffic corridor that will eventually link to the future Interstate 69 in south Arkansas and become a four-lane roadway.
“There have already been good developments along I-530 in Pine Bluff, especially on Olive Street at Exit 43 with the arrival of restaurants, retail shops, convenience stores and gas stations,” says Richard Metcalf, executive vice president with Relyance Bank, which invests in several projects. “A lot of development is occurring around the Walmart Supercenter on South Olive, because it’s one of the most successful, high-traffic Walmarts in all of Arkansas.”
Metcalf says Olive Street is a major arterial thoroughfare that naturally attracts planners and developers.
“You want things built near intersections where major roads come together, and Olive Street’s proximity with I-530 makes it a hot area,” he says. “There is still some property available for development.”
The Long Haul
One of many logistics-based companies that rely on Jefferson County’s transportation system is SAJ Distributors, a large distribution operation in Pine Bluff. SAJ was acquired in early 2013 by New York-based L&R Distributors but has retained the SAJ Distributors name.
SAJ delivers health and beauty aids, Select Brand medicine, and other over-the-county medications to about 1,000 supermarkets, drugstores and other stores throughout the south-central United States, employing 90 salespeople, along with 150 customer service, accounting, purchasing and operations workers at the distribution center.