Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said he likes Clark County.

Speaking Monday at Arkansas Hall at Henderson State University, Beebe was the keynote speaker for the kickoff celebration for the Clark County Strategic Community Plan. He said the 18 months of work put into the plan by citizens of Clark County makes the county more attractive to prospective businesses, industries and residents.

“Some communities make it easier to like them,” Beebe said. “That’s what we’re looking at here.”

He said that he loved all communities in the state equally, much as a parent loves his children equally. “But you don’t always like them.”

Armed with the strategic plan, Beebe said he and other developers now have more material to use in marketing Clark County. “You’ve made it easier for me to sell you.”

The 47-page plan features 41 strategic goals and 254 action steps. It was developed over a period of 15 months by the people of Clark County, who attended more than 60 meetings and worked through differing opinions.

The plan not only lists the wishes and goals for Clark County, but its strengths and weaknesses and how to capitalize on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. “Those strengths far outweigh the weaknesses,” Beebe said.

Clark County has a tremendous asset in its people, he said. “The quality of people far supersedes all other resources.”

Monday’s celebration also included glimpses of the plan and what it can mean to Clark County.

Dr. Wesley Kluck, co-chairman of the planning process, spoke of previous events that were supposed to help Clark County grow. The completion of Interstate 30 through Clark County was supposed to make Arkadelphia’s population double to 20,000, he said. A few years later, the construction of DeGray Dam was supposed to boost the population even further to 40,000 people. “It didn’t.”

As the years went by, the people of Clark County began concentrating on maintaining its population, not growing it, Kluck said. But with the completed strategic plan, the groundwork for growth has been laid. “We are getting ready to grow,” he said. “I really believe we are going to do it this time.”

Dr. Alan Wright, co-chairman with Kluck, simplified the planning process into three steps: Educate, communicate, participate. Details about the planning process were shared at every opportunity, he said. More than 20,000 e-mails were sent to let everyone know what was going on. More than 60 meetings took place over 15 months, each one open to the public with invitations issued in every public forum, so that everyone could participate.

“Community development is everybody working together. I like to compare it to a Jacuzzi,” Wright said. “Everybody’s in it together, warm and happy, and others want to join in.”

Officials praise ‘big day’ for Clark County

Monday’s celebration of the Clark County Strategic Plan was “really a confirmation of the future we’ve claimed and are a part of,” said Bill Wright, who served as master of ceremonies for the celebration.

Wright, the president of the Clark County Industrial Council, said the plan was “a group effort” that is “a collective plan of all of us” citizens of Clark County.

The effort was led by the Joint Educational Consortium, a group of employees from Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities. If the JEC had not decided to sponsor the project, the strategic plan would not exist, Wright said.

Dr. Charles Dunn, president of HSU, welcomed everyone to the ceremony at Arkansas Hall. He praised the strategic plan as a list of what can be in Clark County. “It’s a very big day for Arkadelphia and Clark County,” he said.

He told a story of a former university board president who urged university officials to “think big” when making the wish list for the aviation program. The instructor asked for a flight simulator. The board member told him to ask for more. As a result, Henderson’s aviation program is the only one of its kind in the state.

Bill Wright echoed Dunn’s sentiments, saying that was the most difficult part of creating the strategic plan for some. “That was one of the most important parts of the process was to think big” and let go of the old excuses for failure.

Wright also praised Dr. Wesley Kluck and Dr. Alan Wright, co-chairmen of the Strategic Plan. Kluck serves as vice president for Institutional Advancement at OBU. Alan Wright is associate professor of management at HSU.

The two devoted countless hours to the creation of the plan, attending hundreds of meetings and sending out thousands of e-mails, Bill Wright said. “Dr. Wright and Dr. Kluck gave of themselves so that we could create the plan we wanted.”

Margo Green, co-chairman of the health care committee, told of the work her committee did in the planning process. “I am so proud of the Clark County Strategic Plan,” she said. “I love it when a plan comes together.”

She also talked about the work yet to be done. “We’re going to need everyone of you to see that we accomplish all the things in the plan.”

“Your support in this is absolutely necessary,” Bill Wright said.

State Sen. Percy Malone introduced Gov. Mike Beebe. Before making the introduction, Malone spoke of the successes already seen that can be attributed to the planning process. They include the grant received to build a 24-hour child care center at the Clark County Industrial Park.

“Why will this plan be successful?” Malone said. “Because we all love where we live.”