A Brief History
Since its earliest days, Jefferson County has had a close relationship with transportation. In the early 1800s, it was the Arkansas River that contributed to its founding. Beginning in the late 1800s, the railroad helped it grow. Then came state and U.S. highways (and much later, an Interstate). An airport was added in the mid-1940s. Then the river’s importance re-emerged in the late 1960s with development of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. All four transportation modes – river, rail, road, and air – remain vitally important to the local economy today.
Other major Jefferson County developments include construction in 1941 of the Pine Bluff Arsenal, a manufacturing complex that is now the only active U.S. Army installation in Arkansas, and the development three decades later of FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, which plays a vital role in protecting the nation’s public health. Community leaders also developed two industrial parks—one in north Pine Bluff and one at Pine Bluff’s port—that have resulted in thousands of manufacturing jobs. In fact, the manufacturing sector now consistently represents nearly one-fifth of county employment.
The 21st Century promises to bring new investments and new employment opportunities to Jefferson County. The GTL Americas Project should provide a major catalyst for growth and economic development.