Dinner's REDI

PHOTO BY Molly Kendrick
PHOTO BY Molly Kendrick

Dinner's REDI

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

This is a long-enduring paradox first proposed by philosophers in Ancient Greece to describe the problem of determining cause-and-effect. Today, it is still fun to ponder this age-old question.

Now consider a similar question as it relates to our regional economic viability. Which comes first, supply or demand? What does your gut tell you?

Traditionally home cooks have been serving up eggs for breakfast and pot roast for Sunday dinner. Yet in modern times we just read the menu and order what sounds good. Some ravenous eaters are looking for the all-you-can-eat buffet, while more discriminating diners are searching for the true, organic, farm-to-table dining experience. But behind both kitchen doors, a lot of orchestration goes into the preparation to ensure that patrons enjoy their meal. So, it is no surprise when we are asked, “Where do you want to eat tonight, honey?” we find selecting which restaurant is often the hardest part.

The same is true for companies considering site selection to expand or relocate. Texarkana is blessed with an abundant supply. We have all the right dishes on our menu to bring new businesses to our table. We are also blessed to have the determination of Dean Barry to stir up demand. Dean’s vision is to support all community partners by allowing them to do what they do best. It’s a large undertaking for sure, but Dean knew Texarkana was in need of a new recipe to showcase our rich supply. He gathered up a passionate group of like-minded folks to form a public-private partnership to focus on creating demand.

The trend of public-private regional partnerships is happening all over the United States. It is a response to redefining the roles each stakeholder contributes to the economic development playing field. Dean states, “We can all work together to make this happen. We all have different needs, but we all have the common goal of making our community better!”

Dean observed, with a level of frustration, the flat line trajectory of attracting new businesses to our area. The unintended consequence of decades of division and fragmented responsibility has blurred the roles of who is leading in job recruitment. By the natural forces of being a border city, our duplicate government structures are often forced to do everything twice. Dean suggests there is a better way. In this modern world of immediacy, the need to streamline the process of attracting companies requires a clear line of responsibility. The world is changing before our eyes and we must adapt quickly. This was the genesis for establishing AR-TX Regional Economic Development, Inc. (REDI), a non-profit group born from a unified vision for the future of Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas committed to helping businesses connect with economic development opportunities throughout the region.

So why incorporate a public-private partnership? There are many advantages for corporations to work with private developers when searching for future sites to expand operations. Corporations need one point of contact to quickly assess their needs. It can often be confusing when working with multiple municipalities and governmental groups to determine who is in charge. Each entity has their own priorities and constituents. With a private developer, there is a clear executive chef and a concise set of goals which can be easier to negotiate. Another advantage is that private developers and corporations speak the same language. Everyone wants to avoid bureaucratic platitudes that tend to produce vague answers. When private parties are allowed to engage in meaningful discussion, decisions can be made quickly and accurately. Genuine progress can be made. A third advantage is that private developers are engaged in specific markets and have access to extensive networks. Private developers are experts in their field, and they can use this expertise to access key decision-makers who may be interested in our region. In addition, private developers make calls, instead of waiting for the phone to ring. They are more responsive in their efforts to circumvent red tape and expedite creative solutions to overcome obstacles. Finally, they keep private conversations private. Most businesses are not looking to become part of the public record while negotiating and making final decisions on the best site selection.

Dean declared, “I want Texarkana to grow. I guess, more than anything else, I want everybody’s kids to want to live back in Texarkana. Several years ago, Chris Karam and I were doing a class out at A&M. The kids were there talking to us and they said, ‘We don’t have any reason to stay in Texarkana. We’ve got to leave here. There’s nothing for us.’
I kept telling Chris, ‘This has got to change.’ I said, ‘We want kids to stay in Texarkana.’”

Our region, as with most rural communities, has always been challenged with the “Brain Drain” phenomenon of young adults seeking better professional opportunities outside the region. Dean has sought to reverse this trend. His enthusiasm for enticing more students to town is revealed through investing in higher education. “I think, A&M, Texarkana College, University of Arkansas, all these institutions are going to be just fantastic for Texarkana because they’re going to bring people. There’s no doubt, we’re going to get jobs to Texarkana that use the people educated at those institutions.”

The catalyst will come from bringing the cities and the counties together to pull on the rope in the same direction at the same time. Dean recalls area citizens rallying in support of Texarkana College to overcome a financial crisis. “Well, it all started when we got the election successful for Texarkana College to keep the college open. That was a huge, huge win for everybody in this area. No doubt the college would have been gone if that hadn’t happened. When we were successful in keeping the college open, it proved to me we can work together to overcome any obstacle.”

I want everybody’s kids to want to live back in Texarkana.” —Dean Barry

Either real or imagined, our area is challenged by the state line. We are not talking about the Avenue; we are talking about the visible and ever-present impression that our two sides do not work well together. Optimism continues to strengthen, however, as our two mayors seem committed to writing a new story. According to Dean, “We’ve got the best mayors on Earth right now. We’re going to make it happen.”

While strides have been made toward the development of the Texas side over the past few years, Dean believes that Arkansas is due. “Everybody realizes that Texarkana, Arkansas, has got to be a huge part of this deal. Allen Brown is doing a fantastic job. He really is against overwhelming odds, but the odds are changing big time. I’d give anything in the world if the first business that we bring in would be on the Arkansas side because it will make us all stronger. It will benefit us all.”

Dean’s admiration for Brown has fostered other major partnerships for Texarkana. From 2015 to 2019, Dean and his wife, LaCrecia, signed on to be the title sponsor of the Live United Texarkana Bowl. When asked why Dean said he was drawn to supporting the bowl because of the impact it has and the economic draw it produces for the town he loves.

Grandmothers are fond of saying, “A watched pot never boils.” Dean advises us to have patience with our development. “It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of time. It’s going to take a lot of money to do what we’ve got to do, but we’re going to do it. The best thing we’ve got right now, in all of this area, is we’ve got Miller and Bowie counties and both cities cooperating together in the effort to do this.” That cooperation includes the buy-in of our County Judges, Cathy Harrison and Bobby Howell, as well as the Commissioners and Quorum Courts and all the surrounding cities. “I don’t think in all of my years involved in Texarkana, this has ever happened before. Right now, we’ve got the best people focusing on what we need to keep kids in Texarkana.”

The Barry Family circa 1972—Susan, LaCrecia, Gina and Dean.

Generally, most people do not realize how competitive the business recruitment world can be. Pick up the Dallas Morning News and read any story about how the Metroplex offers millions of dollars in tax abatement to entice businesses to Dallas. States are competing on an unprecedented level to land the “Big Fish.” Remember the headlines about cities fawning over themselves to attract Amazon HQ2? The city of Austin, Texas, recently offered over $60 million in abatements and other incentives to recruit Tesla. We all know the Ark-La-Tex is not the same market as Dallas or Austin; however, our market can be just as competitive. It seems like our corner of the state is often overlooked by our State Capitols. Nevertheless, REDI, with the combined support of our county and city officials, is well received in both Little Rock and Austin.

Dean recalls the warm reception he had when meeting Texas Governor Abbott while he was in town. “Five of us met with him at TAC Air when he landed. We met with him for an hour, and the governor said, ‘Y’all get the property. We will get you some money; we will get you started.’” Dean has also met with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in Texarkana during a luncheon. “I take comfort knowing the Governor’s office and the economic team are well aware of our mission.” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and his economic development team have been encouraging as well. “You can’t believe what they’ve offered us in help as far as all this is concerned.” All players seem to see the benefit of what REDI is doing and are coming to the table with their resources.

“People just don’t understand that it takes money to make money. I read something not long ago by the guy that saved IBM. He said, ‘The most successful person in the world is the most persistent person in the world.’ The one word that you’ve got to use is persistence. It’s no different than selling an insurance policy. I always said I’ve got to call on ten people to sell one, and the guy that ran IBM said the most successful person in the world is the one that has the most failures.”

Known famously for brilliantly branding his insurance company as, “…cheap, cheap, cheap,” Dean is the exact opposite. He is overflowing with faith and generosity. On many occasions, Texarkana has benefited from this generosity. “If you do the right things with your money, He [God] will take care of you. I’m a firm believer that to whom much is given, much is expected. I just want to do whatever we possibly can to help Texarkana. I just want to do whatever’s necessary for a better town. LaCrecia feels the same way.” For years Dean’s wife, LaCrecia, has helped women fighting cancer with her wig ministry. She buys high-quality wigs and provides them at wholesale prices to women undergoing chemotherapy and suffering from the side effects of hair loss. It’s her passion and why she believes she was put on this earth. Together, this great couple continues to offer their money and time to secure a legacy of progress and development for our growing community.

So, when asked where to eat… Dean Barry will always choose the one place that will satisfy the whole family… right here at home.

Jeff Schreve Talks About Dean Barry

Dean is a trash talker on the golf course. He is good enough to back it up. A number of years ago, Dean, Matt Reynolds and I would play together nearly every Friday afternoon. Matt was good enough to give Dean a run for his money (I was not much competition). One Friday, Matt was playing really well, and it was close. So Dean and I kept telling Matt how great he was playing and how victory was in sight. Matt proceeded to shoot an 11 on the next hole, ending the competition. Dean and I got a big kick out of the good-natured ribbing. (Matt was not as thrilled about it!).

How do you feel witnessing Dean’s good deeds? e.g. Dean teaching Sunday school to special needs adults for 15 years.

Dean has a great heart for people, especially those with special challenges. He and LaCrecia are very generous with their time, talent, and resources, always looking to help someone in need to better the church and the community.

You developed a true friendship with Dean Barry on and off the golf course. When did you become fully aware of Dean’s unselfish devotion to our community? What can we all learn by following Dean’s example?

Dean loves Texarkana. He wants to see the twin cities thrive with economic development and opportunity. He is always ready to lend his support, expertise, and financial participation to further the cause. I am always impressed with his generosity and selflessness. He is a dear friend who has partnered with me in a great way in sharing the gospel around the nation and the world through From His Heart Ministries.

Allen Brown Talks About Dean Barry And The Live United Bowl

Established seven years ago the Live United Bowl is a successful event for the United Way of Greater Texarkana and the community. Economic impact comes in many surprising forms. How many ways does hosting an NCAA Division II sanctioned football bowl game contribute to the Texarkana economy? What surprised you most about our community’s response to hosting the game?

The eagerness of individuals to help. It takes an army to put on a large event like this and it was refreshing to have people calling to see how they could be involved. Probably the most special part has been the community involvement with the United Way agencies. Having the football players visit the agencies and see what our community is all about and then seeing the folks from those agencies in the stands waving their pom-poms is heartwarming, to say the least. The local economy benefits in a number of ways. The most obvious is the weekend of the game with out-of-town fans coming in for one or two nights. But we have made an impression on the universities we have hosted over the years, and have had overnight stays as they have traveled through Texarkana to their other games. It has put Texarkana on their radar as not just a pass-through town, but a community with friendly, welcoming people.

You developed a true friendship with Dean Barry in the early days of securing sponsorship. When did you become fully aware of Dean’s unselfish devotion to our community? What can we all learn by following Dean’s example?

It didn’t take me long to realize that Dean Barry was a unique individual and he genuinely wants Texarkana to be the best it can be, whether it is Arkansas or Texas. Dean is a Texarkana supporter, as is his wife, LaCrecia. He first came to me wanting to be a financial supporter but in a short time, it was obvious that he wanted to help make the Live United Bowl a success and something that would draw people to Texarkana as well as give our community something to be proud of.

I have always thought of myself as someone who wants to give back, but Dean has taught me so much. When he gives himself to a project, he is all in! Whatever needs to be done, he is going to do with a glad heart. His faith is a big part of who he is and he has a servant’s heart. In our first conversation, he said God has blessed him and he wants to give back. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He is a special man married to a special woman and Texarkana is fortunate to have them fighting for us to be the best we can be as a community. 

View a few Dean Barry Insurance commercials on MrWillBarry YouTube channel.

No chicks were harmed in the production of our cover. We found them a wonderful home with Brixton Barr (L) and Haven Casteel (R).


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