By Mark Ross
The Hempstead County Strategic Planning Process members meet on Thursday night at Hempstead Hall on the campus of the University of Hope-Texarkana.
The purpose of the H.C.S.P.P is an initiative for Hempstead County and Hope to work with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute. The Institute has a process called ACCESS. ACCESS is a grass-roots, adaptable community assessment program that assists communities in developing sustainable and innovative approaches to economic growth and better quality of life.
The members first listened to two guest speakers prior to breaking into their individual groups. The first guest speaker was Lisa Taylor, the Economic Development Coordinator of Dequeen – Sevier County. Dequeen – Sevier County went through the same ACCESS process that Hempstead County – Hope is going through now.
She spoke about the need for engagement from our community. She advised that people want to be listened to, not heard. She said Sevier County went through a planning process of relabeling itself and creating a new slogan and county logo.
The second guest speaker was Ryan Watley, CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff. He spoke of the challenges and growth Pine Bluff has had, and what it is currently going through. One thing mentioned was how they are demolishing old dilapidated buildings throughout their city to the revitalization of the downtown area.
He spoke of some of the same problems all communities have, which is getting property owners to maintain their properties. Some owners can’t even be located due to not living within the community any longer. Lastly, he mentioned the coming of a casino and the economic boom it will bring.
After the speakers spoke, the planning members broke off into their five individual groups. The five groups were Public Priorities, Education, Tourism, Economic Development and Quality of Life.
The Public Priorities group listened to representatives from Water Districts within the County and a Hope Water & Light Representative. The Education group discussed the need to improve and educate the community on the verity of education programs. The Economic Development group broke into several teams to work on a matrix of information. The Tourism committee worked on several issues including creating either maps, guides and other information for residents and tourist. The Quality of Life committee spent some time speaking on bike lanes and trails throughout the community.
The Hempstead County Strategic Planning Process meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 5 p.m. at Hempstead Hall. All residents are encouraged to attend and be involved in the process