By Jessica Terrill and Stephanie West

First in a series

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on the strengths and needs of the Arkadelphia area and suggested solutions to these needs. This report was compiled, researched and written by students in the Advanced Reporting class at Ouachita Baptist University.

Arkadelphia has strengths that can help it move forward. “We have everything we need to be a strong, strong community,” said Dr. Lewis Shepherd, assistant to the president for special programs at Ouachita Baptist University. The key, however, is to use and maximize Arkadelphia’s strengths for the betterment of the community. In response to open-ended surveys in which people listed Arkadelphia’s strengths, respondents made many positive remarks about Arkadelphia.

1. Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist
University: The two leading industries in the Arkadelphia area

– The two universities (1) employ more than 800 faculty and
staff; (2) Provide a source of strong economic support and
payrolls and (3) Offer cultural and entertainment events in the
community which are often free.

– “Racial harmony (not perfect but better than much of the
South).” – Jeff Root

– “Two strong universities that bring cultural values of many
kinds; strong economic support, payrolls, etc.; Entertainment
through sports, drama, music, etc.; stimulus for better public
schools.” – Dan Grant

– “The two universities are a huge economic anchor. Per
capita, Arkadelphia is one of the most educated towns in Clark
County.” The universities’ students and graduates also have
the potential to impact the community by contributing their
financial and intellectual resources. – Aaron Stewart,

– “The willingness of people to step up in times of need. A
strong, developing public-school system.” – Mark Overturf.

2. Quality of life

– “Good place to raise a family. I feel safe here. The schools
are great. I want my kids to grow up here. Proximity to free or
inexpensive cultural events. I can bring my kids to musicals or
art shows at Ouachita. It would be too expensive in the city.
Opportunities for my family to interact with students. We love
to have students over to our house and for our kids to be with
them at church, etc.” – Jennifer Byrd

– A minimal amount of crime in the Arkadelphia area, with acts
of violence (in the mainstream) being virtually non-existent.” –
Wes Reeder

– “A religious community with strong moral convictions, family
values and loyalty to country. Small community atmosphere
with a close proximity to several larger urban areas. Excellent
law enforcement , court system and first response medial care
for all ages from infants to senior adults.” – James Calhoun

– “A strong regional hospital with related health programs; the
Ross Foundation, an endowed charitable organization
committed to supporting good causes, unusually large for a
small city; relatively well-planned residential areas-not often
true for small cities of only 10,000 population (with better than
average city services utilities, zoning, etc.; A remarkable
tradition of a variety of strong churches. Many choices.” – Dan
Grant

– “The cooperative, harmonious spirit and fellowship among
the local churches and pastors, regardless of denomination or
race. ” – Faron Rogers

– “The community is a strong Christian and moral strength to
the community. ” – James Calhoun

– “Our demonstrated ability and organization to marshal a
significant force of volunteers to deal with the aftermath of
disasters and other community concerns.” – Al Harris

– “A strong service-sector economy, banking, governmental
center.” – Blain Smith

– “DeGray Lake, DeGray State Park and Lodge and golf
course.” – Billy Ruggles

– In response to a random survey administered earlier this
spring at Ouachita Baptist University, students praised the
town’s quality of life, its safety and “home-like aura.” They also
noted a sense of cooperation and peaceful relations.

3. Location

– Furthermore, Arkadelphia’s location in southwest Arkansas
provides convenient access to essential locations and
transportation: Next to Interstate 30 and a major railway; near
the Little Rock National Airport and the Clinton Library; close
proximity to cities such as Hot Springs and Texarkana.

– “(Arkadelphia) is centrally located between various markets.
It’s roughly the midpoint between Dallas and Memphis.” –
Aaron Stewart

– Strategic positioning-rail, interstate, river, etc. – Lewis
Shepherd

4. Recreational opportunities

– The natural beauty of the area. – Faron Rogers

– Lake DeGray, the Ouachita and Caddo rivers, great hunting
(deer, ducks, turkeys, doves, squirrels) and fishing; hiking and
walking trails.

– “Outstanding natural resources: Two beautiful rivers and a
remarkable lake with state and federal parks, lodge, marinas
and recreational developments.” – Dan Grant

5. Arkadelphia has the potential to strengthen its already
existing work force.

– “There is indeed a well-trained group of workers, but in general
these are our long-term employees that have developed into
an excellent work force. We do hire a percentage of employees
that have demonstrated abilities in manufacturing.” – Carlos
Zamudio

6. Good medical facilities and a strong regional hospital

– Twin Rivers Baptist Health Care; A variety of primary care
givers, such as dentists and ophthalmologists. Children’s
Hospital and other specialized hospitals in Little Rock are within
an hour’s drive.

– “A strong regional hospital with related health programs.”
Dan Grant

The above strengths serve as a basis for Arkadelphia and its
contribution to Clark County. Arkadelphia’s potential is
certainly evident. While all communities fall short of perfection,
the residents can look at the city water tower logo on I-30 and
remember that, indeed, “Arkadelphia is a great place to call
home.”

Contributors to “Strengths.” Jennifer Byrd, OBU; James
Calhoun, minister, city director; Dr. Daniel R. Grant, retired,
former president of Ouachita Baptist University; Al Harris,
Arkadelphia police chief; Mark Overturf, Twin River
Architecture; Wes Reeder, Reeder Realty; Faron Rogers,
pastor, Second Baptist Church; Jeff Root, OBU; Billy Ruggles,
Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home; Lewis Shepherd, minister,
Greater Pleasant Hill Baptist Church; Blain Smith, Arkadelphia
area Chamber of Commerce; Aaron Stewart, CCIC; Carlos
Zamudio, plant manager, Scroll Technology

In Wednesday’s Siftings Herald, the second installment of the
series will focus on Arkadelphia’s needs.