Clark County now has a 47-page plan of action for economic development and improvement.
More than 150 people attended the final community meeting of the Clark County Strategic Plan Thursday night in McBeth Recital Hall at Ouachita Baptist University.
The purpose of the meeting was to reveal the completed strategic plan to the community after 15 months of meetings by subcommittees in six different areas: Economic development, house, education, health care, leadership and tourism co-chairman of each subcommittee presented selections of their committee’s plan. Margo Green presented the health care plan. “We knew we were in a win-win situation,” Green said, because community surveys revealed that most people were generally satisfied with the available health care in Clark County.
So the committee looked to the future to develop their plan, to help determine what the health care needs of the community would be in the future. “We had to look beyond who we are now,” Green said.
To accommodate that vision, the committee’s first goal involves increasing the local capacity of Baptist Health Medical Center-Arkadelphia, with specific focuses on increased population of retired persons.
Lonnie Jackson presented the economic development committee’s plan, and said he was proud that the county’s residents have already accomplished one of the action steps listed. Under the first goal of developing a unified economic development organization for the county, an action step of providing funding for the goal is listed. That was accomplished when residents approved a 1/2-cent sales tax for economic development in June.
Jackson called the approval of the tax “a great start” to the implementation of the Strategic Plan. “We can’t do enough,” he said to support the plan and its purposes.
He thanked those who voted in favor of the tax and continued to provide support for improving the economy of the county. “We couldn’t have done it without you.”
Fred Phillips presented information about the Tourism portion of the plan. He said, “There’s so many realized and unrealized opportunities in Clark County.”
He reminded the audience that all citizens of the county can help bring tourists to the area. “We are all ambassadors for Clark County. We have the opportunities to market ourselves to others.”
Some people may have a misconception about tourists, Phillips said. “Tourism is dollars flowing into the county from outside the county.” That means that persons who stop at our convenience stores while traveling through are tourists, not just those people who come to visit our attractions.
Phillips said his committee decided that tourism was “a quality of life” issue. “We have to give new business reasons to expand, give students a reason to come to our universities.”
A summary of the Leadership subcommittee’s plan was presented by Billy Tarpley. He said the members of the subcommittee knew going in that this area has the “least tangible” goals and action steps.
The first goal under the Leadership division is to develop a county-wide organization to implement the Strategic Plan. The Leadership subcommittee also listed the implantation of multi-structured training programs for youths, a plan to help keep local high school and college graduates in the county after graduation and to promote local civic organizations and their activities.
The Housing subcommittee targeted three primary areas, Cochairman Tom Calhoon said. Those three areas are retirement housing, affordable housing and expansion of services to rural areas. Thanks to recently announced projects such as The Gardens and SACD, two of those areas have been addressed, he said.
The planning process has been good for the county, Calhoon said. “I loved the spirit of the community. The planning process brought back that spirit.”
Dr. Stan Miller presented the Education Subcommittee’s findings to the group. Miller, the superintendent of the Arkadelphia School District, moved to Arkadelphia last summer. “I arrived in Arkadelphia at a peak time,” he said. “I was honored to serve on the committee.” Working with the committee gave him “a better understanding of the community.”
The first goal of the Education Subcommittee was to establish Clark County as a leader in the state as a provider of excellent education. Part of this goal includes expanding the current curriculum from pre-school to 12th grade to pre-school to 16th (four-year college). To do that, county schools should work with the local universities to provide both additional resources for school-age students and practical experience for college students.
Another goal of the subcommittee is to join with other educational programs and Clark County industries to provide daycare for industrial workers’ children. This will not only assist workers in the area, but will help attract new industries to the Industrial Park, Miller said.
The county also needs more pre-school programs for children. “We have tremendous daycares in the county, but we don’t have enough birth to toddler programs.” By reaching children earlier, those children have a better chance of achieving their goals later in life, Miller said.
Clark County already is a wonderful community, said Ed Bee, president of Taimerica, the company hired to facilitate the Clark County Strategic Planning process.
Speaking Thursday night in the final community meeting, Bee said the job in Clark County was one of his most pleasurable over the years. “I’ve never enjoyed working in a community as much as I did this one,” he said. “Everything in the community is about quality. You’ve already got a wonderful community.”
Copies of the plan will be made available and can be found on the plan’s web site at www.clarkcountyplan.org.
One more community meeting will take place later to officially launch the completion of the plan, and Gov. Mike Beebe is scheduled to appear.
Details of the celebration meeting will be announced when plans are complete.