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Residents of Gurdon were encouraged to “dream big” by those coordinating the Clark County strategic planning process during a town hall meeting at Gurdon City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Ed Bee, facilitator for the Clark County Strategic Planning committee, made a presentation to those inattendance which highlighted the over process of strategically planning the community and pointed out somekey attractions and disadvantages to Gurdon specifically during the meeting. He said the committee is nearing the end of the discovery and education phases of the process. It is during these times that the committee has attempted to figure out what all Clark County has to offer and what is needed.

The next phase of the process, visioning, begins in January. “There’s going to be an opportunity for every person in this community to get involved,” he said.

Bee said one of the biggest advantages to recruiting industry to Clark County is the “excellent” quality of life. With two universities in Arkadelphia and various attractions such as DeGray Lake nearby, there are plenty of recreational and cultural activities for residents to enjoy.

However, “housing prices are higher here than in most competitor communities,” he said. “But they are moderate when compared to the east and west coasts.”

Also related to housing, Bee noted the low amount of moderate cost housing available for potential employees. There is also not enough housing suitable for executives.

While discussing quality of life, he also said that the lack of retail shopping opportunities and the low number of restaurants is a draw-back. He said retail sales in Clark County have dropped $7 million since 2004.

“The numbers are saying that retailing is an issue you need to address,” he said.

Bee said that the number of manufacturing jobs available to be brought into the area are not very high. He encouraged the recruiting of a “technical workforce” to grow the community.

Specific to Gurdon, Bee said the town had several advantages. He noted the historic architect ure, compact downtown with anchor businesses, the fact that Gurdon is home to Hoo Hoo International and the Gurdon Light.

He also noted disadvantages such as the number of unused buildings, a dwindling population, facades downtown which need to be repaired and the need of more landscaping throughout the town.

Bee also recommenced the creation of a biking or walking trail to tie together local attractions like the Hoo Hoo building and Gurdon Lake. He said this is a positive thing for potential residents to see.

Gurdon resident Billy Tarpley, a member of the CCSP leadership subcommittee, said he looks forward to the positive results the plan could potentially create. “It is so critical that we all take a roll,” he said.

Others, including Gurdon Mayor Clayton Franklin, seemed a little skeptical of the plan.

“I can’t yet see how all of this fits together,” Franklin said. “We’re not gonna let this be an Arkadelphia project.”

Another resident voiced concern about financing the improvements mentioned by Bee. Phil Baldwin, president of Southern Bancorp said there is nothing to worry about.

“I want to encourage all of you – don’t worry about the money,” he said. “I encourage you to dream big.”

The next meeting of the Clark County Strategic Planning Committee is January 16 at Arkadelphia High School. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. All interested community members are encouraged to attend, Bee said.