By Donna Hilton
Interstate 30, the railroad and the airport were named Clark County’s top strengths during a survey of county residents, said members of the economic development subcommittee of the county’s Strategic Planning Committee.
The group met Wednesday afternoon at Arkadelphia Town Hall and discussed the results of the survey and “prioritizing” the wish list.
The interstate was first on the list of strengths because it brings thousands of people through Clark County every day, said Carlos Zamudio, manager of Scroll Technologies and chairman of the subcommittee. “We have lots of traffic driving by each day. Many of them can stop and spend money here,” he said.
Although having the railroad is an asset, it is not necessarily a strength, Bill Wright said. “We’ve got a rail line, but no way to use it,” he said. Wright is president of the Clark County Industrial Council.
He said that the railroad allowed products to be transported through the county, but there aren’t enough sidetracks to make it a viable option for industry.
Union Pacific railroad has said that it may not approve the construction of any more sidetracks. “Getting a sidetrack is getting harder and more expensive now,” Wright said.
The sidetracks are needed to allow a company’s raw materials to get to an industry and for the finished products to be shipped out.
Having rail access is vital to most industries who have inquired about locating in Clark County, said Randall Mathis, executive director of the CCIC. “We’ve missed at least six companies (locating in Clark County) because there is no rail access,” Mathis said.
Lack of funding for economic development was listed as the top weakness in the county. Industries do not want to locate here because there are no local incentives. While the state Department of Economic Development can offer some state incentives, the county has none, Mathis said.
One woman asked why a nearby community had funds for incentives, and she was told that that community had a sales tax to generate funds for economic development. Many counties and communities near Clark County have sales taxes that generate funds for economic development.
The county Quorum Court in November proposed an election which included a 1/4-cent for economic development. That decision was reversed when an accompanying proposal for a jail construction tax was vetoed.
Without such funding, the CCIC is hard-pressed to compete with the other communities, Mathis said. Eight industries have approached the CCIC in recent history, he said. All inquired about local incentives. Mathis told the industries’ representatives that there were none and has not heard from any of them since.
The woman suggested that county residents share this information with friends and neighbors. “We’ve got to educate the public so they’ll support this,” she said.
“It’s time for us to fish or cut bait,” Mathis said.
Also listed as Clark County’s strengths were Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities, low crime rate, good geographic/environmental location, availability of a quality workforce, and the industrial park and business park.
Listed as other weaknesses were: Lack of theaters, restaurants and other recreation; resistance to change; and complacency.
The entire Clark County Strategic Planning Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Ouachita Baptist University.