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HELENA-WEST HELENA – Phillips County is Arkansas’ poorest. But in the last two years, residents, local leaders and business owners have worked with Southern Bancorp to begin turning the economy around. The rural development bank-holding company says in a new report that the effort so far has brought almost 24 (m) million dollars into the eastern Arkansas county of 24-thousand people. Among the projects are a two (m) million dollar sweet potato processing plant, a four and a half (m) million dollar health and wellness center, and a one and a half (m) million dollar affordable housing development.

The Walton Family Foundation helped with the funding, pledging eight to ten (m) million dollars toward the effort. The foundation is a charitable organization created by the family of Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)