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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Phillips County hold town hall meeting for short-term strategic plan

  • Plan Facilitation Director Jennifer Watkins listened to what community, city leaders and councilman want implemented in Phillips County's strategic plan for the next 3 to 5 years. Delta AHEC was the setting last Thursday evening for a public town hall session.
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  • Plan Facilitation Director Jennifer Watkins listened to what community, city leaders and councilman want implemented in Phillips County's strategic plan for the next 3 to 5 years. Delta AHEC was the setting last Thursday evening for a public town hall session. “Back in 2005 Phillips County put together a strategic community plan under the banner of the Delta Bridge Project,” reported Doug Friedlander, executive director of the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce. According to Friedlander, Phillips County's 5-year plan ended, after which a 10-year plan was proposed. “After three or four years of doing rapid community development, you find out that some of the things that you thought of doesn't make sense any more or doesn't really pertain to the now factor any more,” commented Friedlander. Friedlander explained the Eastern Arkansas Planning Commission of the 12-county region, got a grant from the Universal Housing for Rural and Urban Development to come up with a regional strategic plan, which required each community to come up with their own strategic plan. “We decided that this would be the golden opportunity to revisit and review that plan,” commented Friedlander. “Nobody knows your community more than you and once we do this logical analysis this will better determine what your assets are and what type of things should be reflected in the strategic plan,” stated Watkins. According to Watkins, the community should look at the ability to produce results including the capacity the community has to get something done. “What do you as members of your community want to see happen in your community?” Watkins asked. Watkins touched base on business recruitment, business retention and expansion, agriculture, cultural tourism, downtown development, educational development, health care, and infrastructural development along with many other quality of life initiatives such as animal control, leadership, housing, beautification, and pride. “This is about expanding partnerships with other resources, forming partnerships within city borders and with other organizations to better accommodate the needs of the citizens,” explained Watkins. Watkins added that the steering committee of the strategic plan commission met all day Thursday to discuss the logical analysis of economic development in Phillips County and answered a lot of questions on what kind of city's assets are strongly encouraged and what could possibly make it to the strategic plan recommendations. Audience members were given two handouts in which the steering committee presented a tentative list of some of the aspects that deserves to be reviewed. Participants were asked to voice their community insight as to what venues should be implemented in the strategic plan. “We need to make sure of the direction of where as a community you want to go,” said Watkins. Community members voiced their concerns about abandoned buildings. “We need to be able to utilize the facilities that we do have and incorporate a Christian youth center so that our young people can experience and understand the needs of our community,” commented a concerned citizen. Citizens also voiced that the lack of communication between entities and organizations is hindering the public from being aware of what is really going on in the community. By a show of hands, citizens told how they received their source of news, including church bulletins, flyers, local radio and TV stations and word of mouth. “They (the school district) did a really good job spreading the word about this meeting by sending notification home with each student,” commended a former local teacher. Audience members also addressed their concerns about animal control, saying the numbers of strays have increased and their concerns have increased involving public safety and preventing more strays in the future. “We have not finalized any strategy but we did agree that if we put a lot of our energy into recruiting new businesses over the next 3 to 5 years, that would be the smartest use of our time and our resources,” commented Friendlander. According to Friedlander, the goal is to address and review the initiatives that can be done within the short-term period and then move forward with the long-term goals.
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