By Myra Houser, Adam Davis and Hannah Farmer

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series on the strengths and needs of the Arkadelphia area researched and written
by students in the Advanced Reporting class at Ouachita Baptist University. The third part of the series will identify the suggested
solutions to the needs and how these solutions can be carried out.

It’s easy to talk about the strengths of Arkadelphia because there are so many. And the widespread response leaves little doubt that the great majority of Arkadelphia-area residents, including college students, agree that Arkadelphia is, in fact, “a great place to
call home.”

But it is also true that the serious problems identified by respondents to the survey administered during the spring 2006 semester must be addressed. The basic question behind the countywide strategic development plan announced earlier this month by Dr.
Wesley Kluck, local pediatrician and Ouachita’s vice president for institutional advancement, was short and to the point:

“What’s wrong with Arkadelphia, and why are we not growing?”

“Some will say the previous plans didn’t work,” Kluck said, “so they were not as ready to support old organizations. So we’re eveloping a new one that wouldn’t have the baggage.” In order for the plan to develop, however, he said the people of the Arkadelphia area must become actively involved in supporting it.

Brown Hardman, president of Hardman Inc., and a former president of the Clark County Industrial Council, provided his full support to the effort recently as he stressed the importance of planning as being “the most important ingredient for success.”

As he said during a recent interview, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you are, because where you are right now is a result of what you have or have not done.”

What follows are the needs as identified in the survey and personal interviews with the respondents and others who are joining this area-wide effort to make Arkadelphia an even greater place to call home.

1. Promotion of widespread support of the strategic plan.

– We need broad citizen support. – Dr. Ben Elrod. “We tend to
ask, ‘What can I do?’ The answer is different for all people but
all can do three things: 1) Talk up Clark County; 2) Give up
some support money and time; 3) Help those who lead. Very
few people are willing to lead if they know their every effort is
going to be criticized and ridiculed; 4) We need an ‘Up With
Arkadelphia and Clark County” crusade! 5) We need to
complete the new business park and aggressively identify and
recruit prospective established tech businesses and start-up
businesses to locate in the park.”

– We need designated money to goto the CCIC. – Charles
Hollingshead, Mayor. If this is done, the CCIC “will be able
tooffer an incentive to industries that might be wiling to locate
here. The city gives the CCIC $25,000 per year and the county
gives $20,000 a year. When the hurricane hit Louisiana and
Mississippi, many industries lost their factories. I asked the
CCIC director tocheck into getting them tolocate here. The
budget for advertising was $18,000 and we didn’t have it.”

– The key to creating any long-term impact is the strict
adherence to a comprehensive planning strategy. – Paul
Shuffield. “In 1970, Conway and Arkadelphia were virtually the
same size. Why did Conway grow? There was a group of
individuals with a vision. They followed that vision. The other
factor was Conway Corporation, their utility company. Conway
Corp. provided a significant portion of the funding to put the
necessary infrastructure in place for growth and positive
change to occur.

“I think the Comprehensive Community Plan for Clark County
is the first step in the process. Once that is completed, we will
have a good idea of the direction the community wants to go.
We will also have assignments that are directly tied to
community goals. It will also be a “living plan” that will be
regularly updated. That means it’s not intended to be created
and sit on a shelf somewhere.

“As for timeline, the planning process will take 12-18 months
to complete, then up to five years for total implementation.
But once again, it will be a living plan, so it “technically” will
always be developing new initiatives and projects. We will
begin to see dramatic changes occurring in as little as 12
months, in my humble opinion.”

2. More jobs, industrial development, retention of graduates,
population growth

– What can the city do to keep their students here? – Paul
Shuffield. “The universities must provide students with ample
opportunities to either move to local businesses upon
graduation or provide the necessary tools to assist students in
creating their own businesses upon graduation. The community
must provide students with a welcoming atmosphere that will
entice them to stay. The community must also be open to
support new businesses once created. Existing businesses and
employers must provide ample opportunities for internships
and on-the-job training situations for students in school. The
businesses must also work with the universities to create
linkages for employment opportunities for graduating students.

“If we can provide employment opportunities, social
opportunities, a more reasonable salary, and opportunities for
growth, students will be more likely to stay in the community.”

– “Obviously something is wrong (in the Arkadelphia area).” –
Eddie Arnold. “We aren’t playing our strengths. Maybe (we
need to) get a Blue Ribbon Committee and see what we need
here. We know we are losing people and businesses. Growing
up in Sparkman, there were more opportunities for a kid, back
in the 60’s, than there are here today. We’re at a crossroads
now; people have tothink outside the community. We have a
lot of strengths: DeGray Lake, I-30, two good colleges,
favorable climate, Caddoand Ouachita Rivers. We have things
(others) don’t and (others) are outgrowing us.”

– “More good jobs, especially for young people graduating
from college.” – Dan Grant

3. Need for specialized job training

– “Incorporating industry into the civic business is a must. –
Carlos Zamudio, Scroll Technologies. “A quick example to
illustrate: Is the school year calendar studied to satisfy industry
needs? How about city office hours, school hours, etc.? Industry
workers are the backbone of a healthy economy.
How is Arkadelphia acknowledging such individuals? What are
the educational needs for industrial workers? How is the
Arkadelphia School District meeting such needs? Arkadelphia
needs a ‘Strategy for Industrial Workers’ Training, recognition,
and accessibility of services.”

– “We do have some vocational classes and should perhaps
work with industry to offer more related classes through the
colleges to meet their needs. – Aaron Stewart. “While the
universities train students for a wide range of jobs, few are
prepared for specialized jobs in manufacturing, nanotechnology,
or other computer-related industries that might
find a market in the area.”

4. A better trained work force.

– “There is indeed a well-trained group of workers, but in
general these are our long-term employees that have
developed into an excellent work force.” – Carlos Zamudio. “We
do hire a percentage of employees that have demonstrated
abilities in manufacturing. However, the average new recruit
has very little MKH (manufacturing know-how). “Work Ethics”
is an interesting subject. I find our southern values to be
inherently supportive of excellent work ethics. However,
younger employees and recruits tend to lack understanding of
the value of work ethics. Now, I have several young employees
with exemplary work ethics, but a great many examples of the
contrary are alsoa vailable in our experience.”

– “We’ve got to train leaders.” – Brown Hardman. “We should
have leadership training at HSU and OBU. Planning is probably
the most important ingredient for success. In order to succeed,
you’ve got to walk the walk.”

– Regionalize for promotion of economic development.

– There are 200,000 people within 50 miles of Arkadelphia.
Who says we don’t have an adequate labor force? – Ben Elrod,
Arkadelphia, and chair-elect of the Arkansas Industrial
Development Commission. “I haven’t studied the political and
other factors, but I know that we need a larger entity than just
one county.

6. We need a steady dollar support stream for economic

– A full-time staff position and support staff for the (CCIC).
“This should be a mixture of public and private money and
should be at least $200,000 a year, much better at
$300,000 …and provide a full-time staff position and support
staff for the (CCIC) to keep us out ahead in economic
development.” -Dr. Ben Elrod.

– The five greatest needs of Arkadelphia. – Bill Wright. “(1)
Failure to actively encourage expansion of services,
development and population; (2) Lack of public investment in
job creation; (3) Failure of planning for what we want to be;
(4) Focusing almost all of the public energy on meeting current
needs; (5) Failure of young adults 25-40 to engage in
volunteer public service.”

7. There may be a need to review our present system of city

– We need to choose leaders who exemplify strong leadership
and work hard for results on issues. – Dr. Dan Grant. “We need
to vote on city officials. I believe more in the city manager
form of government because a city manager who is trained in
managing city government is very effective. A good, strong
city manager can dothe same thing that a strong elected
mayor can. The mayor plan is more interested in politics. The
manager plan is more interested in administration. One of the
problems in recent studies shows that this plan lacks in
political leadership. But a good city manager is capable of
stepping in and filling in the political leadership. I think Jimmy
Bolt is very capable of doing this.”

– The advantages of a mayor-alderman form of city
government. – Mark Overturf. “Our mayor doesn’t have any
power; more cities in Arkansas have this (mayor) form of

– “City government is not the problem. County government is
not the problem.” – Paul Shuffield. “Ample dialogue between
government and citizens is the issue. There must be open,
organized lines of communication between government and
constituents. Also, the government must be accountable for
their actions and understand their limitations and
responsibilities. That is the case whether we have a mayor or a
city manager form of government.”

Other responses:

– “Lack of diversity and vision in city and county government.
A core group of people who don’t want Arkadelphia to change
or grow try to control the city.” – Jennifer Byrd

– “Stronger more forward-thinking government officials” are
needed. – Mark Overturf

– “Well-trained and well-informed county/city leadership” is
needed – Lewis Shepherd

8. Greater coordination between the county and the city, and
the CCIC and Arkadelphia Chamber

– “I think there is probably a lack of coordination due to a lack
of communication.” – Paul Shuffield. “Also, I think a lack of
resources can create a situation where territorialism comes
into play. Please realize that a lot of these issues can be
resolved by the development of and adherence to a
comprehensive community plan that is monitored by an
oversight body of some sort.

“Let’s equate the coordination issue to a football team. Assume
you have 11 players run out on the field. You have not told
them their positions, plays, rules, or even which end zone is
theirs. How well do you think they would do in a game against
the Henderson Reddies or the OBU Tigers? Probably not well.
Perhaps by the fourth quarter they would have some sense of
the process, but by then it is toolate.

“Now a different scenario with the 11 players. Provide them
with a rule book and a play book. Determine their skills and
abilities. Allow some time for practice to understand their
strengths. Then send them out on the field. Will they win the
game? Maybe or maybe not, but at least they are better
prepared to play. They have some sense of their
responsibilities and how they can interact together
toaccomplish a common goal.
The same holds true for communities. Sure, Arkadelphia can
continue in the same direction that we are moving. We may
experience growth and some level of success. We may also
experience plant closures, burned-out buildings, increased
crime, and increased depletion of resources and population.
But assume we create a plan that directs us over the next 5-
10-20 or 30 years. We may still suffer plant closures and other
negatives, but we will have a plan that will account for those
potential situations and an appropriate response, not a

9. We need a sense of involvement and purpose among some
of our citizens.

– “Personally, I want to see Arkadelphia grow.” – Eddie Arnold.
“There’s too many people who leave it like it is and complain
about it. (We need to) take a hard look at what we want to do,
make the quality of life better, and draw (people/industry) in.”

10. Develop stronger leadership

– “We have a lack of citizen leadership.” – Dan Grant. “The
leadership needs the whole list of service needs (problems)
and help the whole community look at all the needs at the
same time, and then help them put it in a rank order. This is
called ‘public policy planning.’ And we haven’t had much of
this. If you went toevery county seat town in Arkansas, with a
few exceptions, you would find the same frustrations. There
are a few exceptions and those are the ones where the
community pulled together. Community togetherness and the
willingness to compromise on the small stuff. I think that’s
they key”

– How can change come about? “Through leadership.” – Brown
Hardman. “You’ve got to have leaders who would rather be
respected than liked. We’ve got to train leaders; we should
have leadership training at OBU and HSU. Planning is probably
the most important ingredient for success. Teamwork will help
move us forward.”

– “There is a definite difference between leadership and
control.” – Paul Shuffield. “But I don’t think they are mutually
exclusive. Effective leadership can create positive change
regardless of whocontrols what. The leadership must make
sure they are working for the betterment of the greater rather
than for the benefit of the few. Arkadelphia is entering a period
of significant change in the makeup of local leadership. This is
not the result of an overthrow or revolution, if you will. It is
simply a natural progression. The past generation of leaders
are reaching a point where they are ready to move to the next
stage of their community and organization involvement, a type
of retirement. That means a new generation will be taking

“What is at issue is the preparedness of the new generation of
leaders. Are they sufficiently ready to accept the tasks at
hand? Is there an adequate understanding of leadership roles
and responsibilities? Those questions will have to be sorted out
as part of the change process. But what can be done to assist
this process is providing adequate opportunities for new
leaders toacquire the necessary skills to perform their jobs;
providing mentoring opportunities with past leaders; providing
the opportunity for interaction with the overall community;
and, providing the opportunity for the incoming leaders to
identify and interact with the generation that will follow them.”

11. We need to strengthen downtown with new stores and

– A new restaurant on the bank of the Ouachita River by the
bridge. – Billy Ruggles. “The restaurant can be reminiscent of
Gastons in Mountain Home, Arkansas. It is a five-star
restaurant and is set overlooking the river.”

– Revive the 2025 planning process for the revitalization of
downtown Arkadelphia. – Ben Elrod. “We made progress but
didn’t finish. We need to review the vision, upgrade the model.
We need specific planning such as (1) What kind of shops are
needed? (2) What kind of services are needed? (3) What kind
of housing is needed? We also need to consider ways to offer
incentives to help new business through their first three tofive

– Why downtown needs to be the focus for retail stores. –
James Calhoun. “Vibrant communities have a vibrant
downtown. It starts in the downtown area and the city moves
outward. The downtown area of the town is the vital part of
the city, of any city. That is where the city council sits, the
post office and the other things that every city has. The
improvement will flow outwards toward the newer parts of
town if we get this part revitalized.

– “We need to recruit new industries and jobs, but we also
need to get people to spend their money in Arkadelphia at our
local retail businesses and restaurants.” – Jack Greenwood.
“The problem is that we do not have the retail shops and
restaurants that people want. This means our tax dollars are
leaving Clark County and going to other cities. Our youth must
drive to Hot Springs, Benton or Little Rock to goto a movie,
while there they eat in their restaurants and shop in their retail
shops. Whereas, if we had a movie theater, smaller
communities around us would be coming to Arkadelphia for
movies, eating in our restaurants and shopping in our retail
shops. Also, if we had a movie theater and major chain
restaurants, the tourists staying at DeGray Lake would come to
Arkadelphia instead of going to Hot Springs.”

– “The payroll from the top-five employers is sufficient to
recognize that there are a few big fish in the small pond.” –
Carlos Zamudio. “The large portion of benefit of such payroll
escapes Arkadelphia because most earners spend a significant
proportion of their salaries elsewhere. Every time I go to Hot
Springs or Little Rock on a weekend, I run into multiple folks
from Arkadelphia. We are all spending money. Why not spend
it in Arkadelphia? Thanks to our local Wal-Mart, or we would be
hurting on sales taxes even though we have strong payrolls.
Arkadelphia needs to have a ‘Strategy to Attract Payroll
Expenditure,’ better stores, restaurants, entertainment, etc.”

– “We need to try to make (downtown) more pedestrian
friendly.” – James Calhoun. “One way to (do this) is to reroute
the logging trucks around the city and keep the downtown
streets and parts of Pine Street from being socongested by
those trucks having to get through town.”
Other responses:

– “People flock to restaurants and tend to shop when they goto
eat. – Patty Greenwood. “Cracker Barrel (is an example). We
need a restaurant to stay open late at night. We need a reason
to bring people downtown.”

– “I love the feel of downtown areas. The feel of parking and
walking past stores, looking in shop windows, taking in a
movie, getting a burger and shopping.” – Vera Downs

– “Good restaurants, amusements, shopping to keep our
young and our neighbors in town to boost our tax base (like in
Hot Springs and Little Rock). -Veda Morgan

12. Establish an office of retiree recruiting

– “We need a person working full-time to identify prospects,
promote Arkadelphia to them, hold events to attract them to
see the county, promote provision of housing and programs of
care for them. If we build it, they will come and our own will
stay here where they would rather be than move to a city late
in life” – Ben Elrod

13. The need for affordable housing

– “Housing in Arkadelphia comes in two varieties: (1) Over
$200,000 or (2) under $80,000.” – Carlos Zamudio.
“Arkadelphia has such a poor demographics of housing to
attract industrial workers. Let’s assume an annual household
income of $50,000. An appropriate mortgage would be
$800/month – a home of $100,000-150,000 is proper for such
situation. Arkadelphia needs tohave a ‘Housing Strategy.”

– “With baby boomers aging, the need for assisted,
independent assisted living, and nursing homes seems to be
on the rise.” – Eddie Arnold. “Many of these people are planning
on living in Arkadelphia for a while; but what if we don’t have
sufficient housing? What can Arkadelphia do?”
Other responses:

– “Affordable single-family homes in well-developed
subdivisions.” – James Calhoun.

– Condos offering assisted living for retirees. – Bill Newberry

– Other respondents called for housing in close proximity to
medical facilities to attract retirees, and noted a lack of
attractive subdivisions available for young middle class

14. Greater utilization of the two universities

– Greater utilization of the Small business Development Center
at HSU. – Mark Overturf. The Center “is in partnership with
UALR and is directed by Lonnie Jackson. It makes business and
marketing plans that the local businesses could use if it were
better known.”

– “We need to promote community appreciation for and pride
in our two largest industries, our universities. – Ben Elrod.
“Searcy, in late August, early September, makes university
students know that they are welcome.”
Other responses:

– “I would like to see the two universities designate a cultural
representative that would goto city board meetings and listen
and submit ideas.” – Raouf Halaby

– “Universities have three areas of responsibility: 1) Research;
2) Instruction; 3) Public service.” – Lewis Shepherd

– “Utilization and coordination with educational assets to
create job opportunities.” – Al Lynch, insurance executive

15. The need for expanded health care

– “I think that there is the potential to say, ‘Hey we can’t just
ignore health care.'” – Wesley Kluck. “Things need to start now
so that there is not a crisis. There are some specialists we used
to have here that we don’t have anymore, like a surgeon. Most
of the doctors in Arkadelphia are primary care doctors, so most
people have to drive to Hot Springs or Little Rock to see a
specialist.” Resources are needed to meet the needs of a
growing retiree population.

– Recruiting medical specialists, however, is difficult. – Dan
Gathright. “Recruiting specialty physicians for Arkadelphia
becomes harder each year as more doctors are specializing,
even in specialties, e.g., acquiring a general surgeon today
would be harder because the surgeons are now specializing.”

16. Clean-up and fix-up programs for unattractive areas of the

– “Make Arkadelphia more beautiful, especially the riverfront
and city entrance ways, with more flowers, shrubs and trees.”
– Dan Grant

– “Greater pride and commitment of citizens including utilizing
resources already in place. – James Calhoun. “Better inner
structure including streets, sidewalks, curbs and guttering.
Having better east-west and north-south through streets,
through truck routes and off ramps at Country Club.”

– “Make property owners pick up, clean up, and paint. – Raouf
Halaby. “Enforce the law … take all the eyesores out. A
beautiful city brings people back. Common sense says that
people will avoid a place that looks like a dump.”

– “Clean up between 10th Street and Seventh Street on
Caddo. Tourists traveling Highways 7 and 8, 51 and 67 get a
bad impression.” – Billy Ruggles

17. The need for expansion and annexation

– “Extend boundary lines for present and future. We need to
annex the suburban areas, especially Caddo Valley.” – Dan

– “The regionalization needs to happen. – James Calhoun. “All
the surrounding communities that are included in the
Arkadelphia community need to come together and show some
support for (regionalization) in order for this to happen.
Affordable housing is going to come with annexation,
developing subdivisions and the inner structure of the city to
get the streets and curbing before we get the housing. We
have the resources to have adequate growth. But the land has
to come first in order for us to have that growth because
where else will we grow if we don’t have the land?”

18. Lack of entertainment and cultural opportunities beyond
the universities

– “We need to design some feature to attract traffic from the
lake and I-30 into Arkadelphia.” – Ben Elrod. “For example,
Dan Grant’s idea about a model Caddo Indian Village along the
river at the bluff or in the vicinity of the riverfront park. This
would also include a museum for the great Hodges collection.
Get modern Caddo Indian leadership to help do it right.”

– Can Arkadelphia support anyform of entertainment. If so,
what? – Paul Shuffield. “That is a very broad question.
Arkadelphia can support a wide variety of entertainment
options. Does this mean we should open a theme park?
Probably not. We should have an adequate understanding of
the wants and needs of the community, work with potential
entrepreneurs to provide those services, and put the
appropriate support mechanisms in place to ensure the
probability of business success.

“Take, for example, a movie theater. Has Arkadelphia
supported a movie theater? Yes, in the past there have been at
least two movie theaters in town, and both ran successfully for
a period of time. Can Arkadelphia support a movie theater?
The whole motion picture industry is suffering due to the
recent developments and advancements in technology. These
developments are making it quicker and easier for people to
get access to first run films. That doesn’t mean that
Arkadelphia does not need a theater. A theater that was
developed by a person with a sense of vision could be quite
successful. It could provide not only the opportunity to see a
film, but also the opportunity for party room facilities, video
teleconference facilities or tie in with a restaurant or other

As for other forms of entertainment, we will support what is
appropriate for our community. With the large youth
population from the universities, music ventures would be
appropriate. With the ample natural resources, high adventure
or eco-tourism (such as mountain biking, hiking, canoeing,
etc.) would be appropriate. The universities themselves would
allow for entertainment such as plays, musicals, opera or
orchestral performs (i.e., cultural activities) to take place.”
Sothe answer is: “Yes, we can support most forms of
entertainment. Now, who has the vision to create and market
them toassure success?”

Miscelaneous responses:

– A new rail spur for the industrial park. – Aaron Stewart “We
do have a rail spur, but it’s on the wrong side of the Union
Pacific track. It is on the Alcoa side. We need it on the other
side because that is where the industries lie or would have
room to lie.”

– The need for a strong two-party system. – Eddie Arnold.
“This is a one-party county. Companies look at how a
community votes. Very seldom does a Republican carry this
county. It goes back to the box mentality. In my opinion, other
areas are a little more open-minded. I’ve heard people say, ‘I
won’t vote for someone because they aren’t. . .’ This is
something that industries look at.”

– Breathe some new life into the Festival of Two Rivers. – Bill
Downs. “With all the resources we have in this area, the
festival could be expanded into a major arts, crafts and
entertainment event that would draw people from throughout
the region.”

– “A better managed golf course at Turtle Point.” – Woody

– “Better entertainment facilities available to all ages, but
especially for college students.” – Dan Grant

– “More recreational opportunities such as a cinema, more
restaurants, etc.” – Faron Rogers

– The need for a movie theater, miniature golf course, bowling

– “More recreational facilities for youth and adults-sports, etc.”
– Jeff Root

– “Expand our present jail facility.” – Al Harris, Arkadelphia
police chief

– “We need to sell our town, our city. Arkadelphia is a beautiful
town.” – Billy Ruggles

Contributors to “Needs.” Eddie Arnold, Arkadelphia business
executive; Jennifer Byrd , OBU; James Calhoun, minister, city
director; Dr. Bill Downs, OBU; Vera Downs; Dr. Ben Elrod,
former president of Ouachita Baptist University; chair-elect of
the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission; Dan
Gathright, senior vice president and administrator of Baptist
Health Medical Center; Dr. Daniel Grant, former president of
Ouachita Baptist University; Jack Greenwood, insurance
executive; Patty Greenwood; Dr. Raouf Halaby, OBU; Brown
Hardman, business executive, former chairman of CCIC; Al
Harris, Arkadelphia police chief; Charles Hollingshead, mayor
of Arkadelphia; Dr. Woody Jolley, HSU; Dr. Wesley Kluck, local
pediatrician, OBU’s vice president for institutional
advancement; Al Lynch, insurance executive; Veda Morgan,
business executive; Mark Overturf, architect; Faron Rogers,
pastor; Dr. Jeff Root , OBU; Billy Ruggles, funeral home owner;
Lewis Shepherd, minister; Paul Shuffield, SouthernBancorp;
Aaron Stewart, Former CCIC director; Bill Wright, bank
president; Carlos Zamudio, plant manager.