Minutes of January 18, 2012 Mena Mountain Resort - Mena, Arkansas
1. Welcome: The January meeting of the Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas was called to order by Chairman Gar Eisele at 12:00 noon at the Mena Mountain Resort in Mena, Arkansas. The Chairman extended a cordial welcome to those in attendance.
2. Transfer of grant funds The group discussed transferring the balance of AEDC grant funds to ARCO’s account at Western Arkansas Planning & Development District. The funds are currently being held by the Polk County Judge. Approval of the transfer was approved after a motion was entered by James Turner and seconded by Darryl Smith.
3. Committees Website Committee - Chairman Eisele presented the ARCOstrong.org website to the group, explaining that not all of the entry has been completed. He expressed that the Chambers of Commerce in each county are a critical partner to ARCO and they are well represented on the website. Members were encouraged to submit events and photographs. Advertising rates are tagged on the site and offer a 50% discount to advertisers for the first year. Eisele added that Rich Mountain Community College will be assisting with the input of demographic content. He expressed his appreciation to the website committee for their hard work. Business Committee – Chairman Eisele appointed Sherry Johnston, Bill Beam and Tim Rodgers to serve on the committee with him. He requested that the committee update filings with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office and the Internal Revenue Service to reflect the recent name change. He also wants the committee to pursue a tax exempt status with the IRS. Nominating Committee – Chairman Eisele appointed Maurine Walthers, Sherry Johnston, and Chris Ray to service with him on the Nominating Committee. The group is charged with developing a slate of officers for election and making recommendations for filling board positions and committee seats.
4. Guest Speaker Gard Wayt, the Executive Director of the I-49 International Coalition, gave an excellent presentation on the status of the interstate. First providing some historical information, Mr. Wayt stated there were originally several I-49 organizations in different places and in different states. In 2002, the various groups met in Arkansas and joined their efforts to form the I-49 International Coalition. When completed, I-49 will connect three countries: Canada, the United States, and Central America. Several segments of the interstate are completed and several additional segments will be completed within the immediate future. The formation within the next 45 days of a Regional Mobility District is expected to facilitate funding opportunities and increase the focus on the priority of developing the segment between Fort Smith and Texarkana. The earliest expectation to see results for the Fort Smith/Texarkana segment is estimated to be 10 years. Once the states of Missouri and Louisiana have their segments completed, it is expected that they will also increase the focus on the Fort Smith/Texarkana link. After audience comments and general discussion on tourism, Mr. Wayt stated that economic development can be measured by the per capita income. He agreed that tourism is an excellent tool for economic development. Chairman Eisele added that Governor Beebe has endorsed the Fort Smith/Texarkana link as a priority and his letter of endorsement is posted on the new ARCO website.
5. ARCO Development – Updates and Comments Dr. Otto J. Loewer, Ph.D., P.E., Professor, Biological & Agricultural Engineering Department, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, said he was pleased to see the progress since the last meeting he attended four months ago. When looking back three years ago to when the group first organized, Dr. Loewer said the structure of ARCO had developed well. He hoped to see ARCO continue to cast a broad net to bring in additional counties. Western Arkansas is either going to spiral upward or spiral downward; there’s no sitting still. He said he had enjoyed the adventure of working with ARCO and looked forward to continuing as an advisor to the group. 6. Closing It was announced that Dr. Mark Peterson was hosting “Breakthrough Solutions” in Little Rock next week. Two people from Mena and two from Mansfield are already scheduled to attend. Emails will be send to community leaders in Scott County to seek two participates from there. Everyone was reminded that the Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held the first part of March. The next meeting will be held February 15th in Mt. Ida. The exact location will be announced later. There being no further business on the agenda, the meeting was declared adjourned at approximately 1:00.
Sherry Johnston As Recording Secretary