Phillips County's Citizen of the Year for 2015 helped keep rail service in the county and the Business of the Year, the area's newest industry, brought additional jobs to the community's economy seeking to pull itself up by the proverbial bootstrap. These were just two of the kudos handed out Tuesday evening at the 80th annual edition of the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce.
In a brief review of the year's achievements, Chris Richey, serving his first year as executive director of the Chamber, reported another year of progress for Phillips County.

Phillips County’s Citizen of the Year for 2015 helped keep rail service in the county and the Business of the Year, the area’s newest industry, brought additional jobs to the community’s economy seeking to pull itself up by the proverbial bootstrap. These were just two of the kudos handed out Tuesday evening at the 80th annual edition of the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce.

In a brief review of the year’s achievements, Chris Richey, serving his first year as executive director of the Chamber, reported another year of progress for Phillips County.

“A lot of good things are going on here,” he said. “And we’re here tonight to celebrate that success.”

A total of five awards were handed out during the course of the evening including the Farm Family of the Year, Terry and Jerry Fuller. The Chamber’s first-ever Community Service Organization of the Year was awarded to Together For Hope of Arkansas. The AT&T Citizen of the Year honor went to John Edwards, executive director of the Port Authority.

“I want to thank all those who helped make it possible to bring back rail service to Phillips County,” stated Edwards in his acceptance speech.

The Business of the Year was presented to Enviro Tech and Henrietta Wilson was posthumously awarded the Chamber’s first Lifetime Citizenship recognition. The plaque was presented to the Wilson family.  The Chamber also recognized Jaylean Randolph as being selected Arkansas’ Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Keynote speaker Federal Judge Brian Miller described Phillips County as a diamond in the rough. He spoke of a man who searched high and low for a mine rich in diamonds only to return home and find they were on his own property all the time.

“Frank Sinatra once said, ‘If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.’ Paraphrasing Sinatra I say if you can make it in Phillips County you can make it anywhere,” commented Miller.

Miller praised existing local businesses and industries for their tenacity in sticking in Phillips County and helping make it a better place to live.

“You have been successful despite some people taking their business elsewhere simply because they think because it is located in Little Rock or Memphis it must be better,” stated Miller. “There is as much talent here as there is in any of those other places.”

After graduating from Phillips College, Miller said he was frequently asked, “When are you going to leave Helena?” He added that when he decided to return in the late 1990s he was asked, “Why are you going back to Helena?”

“We need to quit looking at what Helena was like 50 years ago,” stressed Miller. “We need to take a close look at how much better off we are now than we were say 10 years ago.

“I see a city on the move,” Miller continued. “I see a county on the move.”

Miller’s remarks drew applause from the capacity crowd in the community room of Phillips College.”

According to Miller people are dealing with a myth that other places are better. He praised the efforts of PCCUA, Helena Regional Medical Center and the local schools.

“Some people bash Helena-West Helena Schools. Some bash Barton, Marvell, DeSoto and Marvell Academy,” said Miller. “We need to get behind all of our schools. They are doing the best they can with the resources they have available.”

The Chamber also recognized several emerging leaders through its HEC Start Up program and Leadership Phillips County.