HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) – Leaders in Poinsett County met this week to discuss economic issues and other opportunities the county could pursue as part of renew East Arkansas, a project aimed at increasing quality of life and increase economic opportunities. Mayors and members of local chambers of commerce met in Harrisburg Thursday to review information collecting during the week long effort. Information was collected from town hall meetings in Trumann, Harrisburg and Lepanto.
"This is part of a two and a half million dollar grant through the East Arkansas Planning and Development District that we're part of," said Poinsett County Judge Charles Nix. "This helps the county to go build some strategies and build a strategic plan for some communities, those kinds of things. Right now we're in the process of getting input from the citizenry and the different communities."
According to Jennifer Watkins, Plan Facilitation Director, EAPDD is a non-profit organization that helps to plan and organize economic development by providing technical assistance. According to a news release, the EAPDD also networks with state and federal resource agencies.
During Thursday's meeting, members of the steering committee voted on the importance of several areas of concern. The top five issues for county residents, according to Building Communities, are education, value added agriculture, attracting government funding, entrepreneurial development and becoming a bedroom community. Not far below those was the issue of tourism.
"I think we're beginning to see some patterns evolve. For instance, value added agriculture. That's one thing that's important to the community and the county as a whole," said Nix. "We're beginning to see tourism show up more in a rural area like us, that's something, county wide, we think we can work on."
Nix said the information collected will be used to build an implementation plan, which could be done in three to four weeks.
"We're beginning to identify our strengths and our weaknesses and find where we have a commonality in the county, and also where we have individually within our communities where we can work on and concentrate on," said Nix. "We have limited resources, and we need to be able to use what resources we have and focus them in a direction that we can get the most bang for our buck."
EAPDD is also getting ready to work with other communities in its 12 county service area. Those meetings, some of which are open to the public, are listed below.
- Blytheville: Sept. 16 and 17 (Town hall meeting seeking public input will be held Monday, Sept. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Arkansas Northeastern College);
- Craighead County: Sept. 24 and 26 (Town hall meetings will be held Monday, Sept. 24 at the Craighead County Courthouse in Lake City from 6 to 8 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Brookland High School Auditorium from 6 to 8 p.m.);
- Marion: Oct. 1 and 2 (Town hall meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 1 at Marion City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m.)
- Earle: Week of Oct. 8;
- Lee County: Oct. 15 and 17 (Town hall meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Marianna Civic Center);
- Greene County: Oct. 23 and 24 (Town hall meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Paragould Community Center); and
- Randolph County: Week of Oct. 29