Searcy Chamber President retires after 33 years

By Carol Rolf

Buck Layne, 67, is ready to take life easy after working 33 years at one place. He is retiring as President and CEO of the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m not in the office today,” he said, laughing, when contacted a few days after his retirement party which was held Feb. 29 at the chamber office. “My official retirement date is June 30, but I’m enjoying life today, relaxing, not worrying about having to be at a meeting.”

Photos by Ashel Parsons

Layne, who grew up in Little Rock, moved to Searcy in 1989 to work in a manufacturing job. “After I graduated from Arkansas State University, I worked in several manufacturing facilities,” he said, adding that he studied materials management in college. “I came to Searcy to work as materials manager at the Owatonna Tool Co. (OTC). I worked there about 18 months and the plant closed; I had to seek employment elsewhere. I saw there was an opportunity at the Chamber of Commerce, so I applied for the job. Lo and behold, I got the job. As part of my responsibilities as executive vice president, I was tasked with trying to find a manufacturing company to fill the plant where I used to work. Road Systems Inc., based in California, came in and took over that plant, which is now XPO Logistics Mfg. It’s still in operation with about 400 employees—a tremendous success story for Searcy.

Senator Jonathan Dismang congratulates Buck Layne.

“That’s the first bookend to my career with the Chamber,” he said. “The final bookend was the announcement of the $80 million, five-year expansion plan of Bryce Corp. in 2022. It’s been a good career [with] lots of other accomplishments between those two bookends. I’ve been blessed.”

Tara Cathey is the new president/CEO of the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Buck has been a driving force behind many successes at the chamber and for our community,” Cathey said in her remarks at Layne’s retirement party. “Over the course of his 33 years, he worked on 15 major manufacturing, logistics and warehousing projects, resulting in an economic impact in the hundreds of millions. This doesn’t include all the oil- and gas-related projects that came in early 2000’s or the countless other smaller projects. Under his leadership, the chamber built the building you are standing in and achieved U.S. Chamber of Commerce Accreditation, making our chamber one of only eight in the state of Arkansas with that status. He has always been a willing mentor, including the staff in every aspect of his job to nurture our growth and development.”

Ralph Burns presents Buck Layne with a Capitol Citation.

“Buck has been a rock and a pillar in our community,” said Ed Covington, Searcy Chamber board chairman. “The chamber and the community will not be the same without him. Buck has been the face of the chamber for 33 years, working tirelessly to ensure success in this community. He will be greatly missed.”

Layne said he has no plans to move from Searcy. “Searcy is a great place to live,” he said, adding the city’s future is bright. “Congratulations to Mayor Mat Faulkner; City Planner Richard Stafford; Searcy City Council, Advertising, Tourism and Promotion Commission and the entire team that worked tirelessly to pass the sale tax and bond issue on March 5,” he said. “The city of Searcy will now have the resources to implement many of the improvements and additions to the community identified by the citizens of Searcy that were included in the plan for the future growth of Searcy.”

Mayor Mat Faulkner (from left), Roger Pearson (manager of the Searcy Municipal Airport) and Buck Layne.

Layne said he hopes to spend more time with family and friends in his retirement. His family includes his wife, Carolyn; three wonderful adult sons and daughters-in-law living in Savannah, Ga.; and, two sisters living in Little Rock.

He may also play a little more golf. “I’ll need to take lessons soon,” he said, laughing. “The older I get, the worse I get. But I do enjoy it.”