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Texarkana: When Two Towns Beat as One

by Curtis Lanning 

When most people think about border towns, their minds probably go to Kansas City. But Arkansas and Texas share an important one, too.

Texarkana, Arkansas and Texarkana, Texas have about 70,000 people when combined, and some do all they can to ignore any boundaries between the cities.

Mike Malone, president and CEO of the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, said, “We try to ignore the state line as much as possible.”

While he said the cities have separate forms of government, Malone added the mayors meet frequently, and both halves of the community work together on a number of economic issues like roads and taxes.

They both are conscious of local tax structures and cooperate to minimize sales tax leakage, according to Malone.

“They do things in sync together,” the CEO said.

Bowie County, Texas and Miller County, Arkansas (both of which house Texarkana) work well together, too, according to Malone.

Malone said the chamber tries to act as a bridge for each city and organizes quarterly meetings for both governments to come together.

The chamber doesn’t favor the business environment on either one side of the state line, according to Malone.

“We don’t exclude one state over the other,” he said.

Instead, the chamber works to recruit businesses to Texarkana, USA.

And though the Texarkana Regional Airport is on the Arkansas side, Malone said both states support it.

Top employers in Texarkana include Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Red River Army Depot, the CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System and Ledwell & Son Enterprises, according to Malone.

The chamber CEO said Texarkana has plenty of strengths for residents and businesses, but at the top of the list is transportation access. Texarkana sits on three interstate systems with I-49, I-69 and I-30.

Cost of living and power costs are both extremely low, Malone said. Texarkana also has an abundance of water.

“Our water supply is very strong,” he said.

And Conway isn’t the only area with three colleges. Texarkana has Texas A&M University – Texarkana, Texarkana College and the University of Arkansas – Hope and Texarkana.

“That gives great attraction to businesses wanting to come here,” Malone said, speaking on the area’s strong educational resources.

Malone described Texarkana’s economy as “very strong and moving fast forward.”

The chamber CEO said the area’s growth is a blur at this point, with 2017 seeing more than 50 new businesses open.

As for why people keep moving to the area, low cost of living is at the top of the list for many, Malone said.

“It’s what people are telling us,” he said.

In addition to that, Texarkana has a great family atmosphere, according to Malone.

Ina McDowell, executive director of Main Street Texarkana, said the area offers an abundance of local shopping, great restaurants and outdoor activities.

“Most [Texarkansans] can find outdoor activities where they live,” she said.

Malone agreed, citing hunting and fishing as some of the most popular local pastimes.

One area Malone would like see future growth? The airport. Right now, Malone said all the flights go to Dallas, and he’d like to see additional options. The CEO also said he’d like to continually improve and grow the downtown area and enhance railroad relations.

Malone said, “Those are our large target points.”

(Photos courtesy of Main Street Texarkana) 

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