In the second of several planned meetings, members of the economic development subcommittee of the Clark County Strategic Plan met Monday to help prioritize the goals and action steps of their portion of the plan.
Lonnie Jackson, co-chairman of the subcommittee, explained that although there are 13 goals, each with many action steps, in the business and job creation portion of the plan, the goals and steps are not listed in any particular order.
Other goals prioritized in the first meeting included forming an advisory team to inventory businesses in Clark County and identify their best practices and their needs. An economic development trainer from Entergy has agreed to provide training to help meet those needs, Jackson said.
During Monday’s meeting, the group discussed Strategic Goal Six, which addresses the technology/communications infrastructure of the county. The goal calls for developing a comprehensive plan to provide broadband Internet service throughout the county.
Phil Baldwin said that AT&T is now in the process of expanding its Internet service and could possibly use Arkadelphia as one of its “test sites.” It was suggested that a small group of people go to Little Rock to meet with officials from AT&T to ask if the communications company would use Arkadelphia as one of its test sites for new Internet technology. Baldwin, city Manager Jimmy Bolt and Dr. Wesley Kluck will deliver the proposal.
Work has begun on implementing Goal Nine of the section of the plan which calls for uniting the county’s two universities, Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University, to attract more students. The first action step calls for development of a blue ribbon committee of officials and students from each university and city and county leaders to determine what actions can be taken to expand enrollment.
Kluck said he has already begun work on behalf of OBU’s commitment to the committee. He will meet with his counterparts at HSU to continue the process, he said.
The group also discussed Strategic Goal Four, which calls for “proactively” marketing Clark County. The action steps listed under that goal will be easily achieved once the EDCCC executive director and staff become acquainted with the county, Jackson said.
The staff of the EDCCC will be able to effectively gather data for the databases needed to provide information quickly for prospective businesses and industries, as well as developers and residents.
“The only information we have now is Census data,” Kluck said. It was suggested that the University of Arkansas be contacted to see if more information is currently available.
Dr. Chester Clark, mayor of Amity, told the group that he had been in communication with officials of Dollar General Stores about locating a discount store in Amity. The building Clark had in mind did not meet the square footage requirement for the company, he said. However, the company is interested in serving the Amity market, and will continue to research the matter.
In discussion of Strategic Goal Five, which aims to improve the transportation infrastructure of the county, it was suggested that members of the group actively seek funding for traffic studies and improvements.
Bolt told the group that the City of Arkadelphia uses a resolution to request traffic studies from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. As a result, the city will see improvements this year to the intersection of highways 7 and U.S. 67, or Caddo and Sixth streets.
The intersection will be widened to make it easier for large trucks to make the turn onto Sixth to continue down U.S. 67.
“We call it a Band-Aid,” Bolt said, because it will only temporarily improve the situation. He admitted that the best fix would be a bypass around the downtown area which would keep large truck traffic off the downtown streets. That solution is also listed as an action step under Goal Five.
The group then discussed the creation of a “boulevard” between the two college campuses. If feasible, Highway 7/U.S. 67 could be widened and given a name reflecting its location near the universities.
The name would not be official, Bolt said, because it is a state and federal highway. But the local name could be changed if 50 percent of the property owners agree to the change. It was suggested the street be called “University Boulevard.”
Other highway projects are also needed in the county, including improvements to Highway 182 in Amity.
Clark said the highway needs to be widened to accommodate traffic flow. The group agreed to ask the AHTD to perform a study with cost estimates.
The group also decided to speak with officials at Caddo Valley about adding traffic lights to Highway 7 at the Interstate 30 exits.
Bolt said he would be happy to provide both Amity and Caddo Valley with examples of resolutions requesting traffic studies from AHTD.
The subcommittee will meet again on Feb. 4 to continue discussion.