Chamber of Commerce assembly focuses on future

Native enterprise leaders, nonprofit representatives, public officers and different stakeholders gathered this week on the First Monetary Music Corridor for the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce’s annual assembly.

Chamber President and CEO Invoice Luther introduced an replace on financial improvement efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic whereas keynote speaker Rex Nelson, senior editor on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, painted an image of what may very well be south Arkansas’s future if it could possibly reverse present downward inhabitants tendencies.

Moreover, a number of nonprofits have been acknowledged for his or her contributions to the neighborhood, and Janice Hicks grew to become emotional when she was named the Chamber’s Ambassador of the Yr.

Financial improvement

Luther started his report with an announcement: El Dorado will quickly be dwelling to a Whataburger quick meals restaurant. The Texas-based burger chain just lately opened in Magnolia, and through a Wednesday afternoon assembly of the Golden Triangle Financial Improvement Council, Director Britta Clark mentioned the Magnolia location has averaged 35,000 orders a day.

Data offered by the Chamber exhibits that within the first quarter of 2022, the Chamber labored on six industrial improvement initiatives, two housing improvement initiatives, 5 new restaurant initiatives, three forest merchandise business initiatives and one manufacturing mission, along with serving to two native, current companies work to develop.

Additionally, in partnership with the Arkansas Financial Improvement Fee, the Chamber had 15 initiatives within the works on the finish of the primary quarter, together with three forest merchandise business initiatives, three chemical business initiatives, one meals and beverage business mission, six undisclosed initiatives and two current business expansions.

The Chamber, each alone and with the AEDC, continued financial improvement efforts all through 2020 and 2021, Luther famous, however issues have picked up considerably this yr, since COVID-19 circumstances have dropped off dramatically.

Luther additionally famous a number of modifications on the Chamber, together with former mission supervisor Brandon Barnette’s departure and former communications supervisor Kaitlyn Rigdon’s elevation to function he left vacant. Faye Brown joined the group to supply communications providers. Jaren Books stays the Chamber’s membership coordinator, Luther mentioned, noting that membership has grown steadily since 2019, even through the pandemic.

“I wish to publicly thank the group for his or her dedication,” Luther mentioned.


Nelson, who final visited El Dorado for the groundbreaking on the Haywood Lodge in 2019, envisioned a future for the neighborhood, which he famous has steadily misplaced inhabitants — like a lot of Arkansas, notably areas within the southern and japanese components of the state –, a development he mentioned he thinks the neighborhood should reverse with a view to progress.

“We’d like you very a lot to succeed… You might be actually key to beat a broad demographic development right here,” Nelson mentioned. “El Dorado is what I consider as a ‘important mass neighborhood’ — it is advisable survive; the important thing is not simply to carry your individual.”

Key to preserving a neighborhood thriving, Nelson mentioned, are a number of elements: top quality public colleges, reasonable and attentive public officers and a willingness to determine and move the reigns to leaders in youthful generations.

“I understand how laborious it’s to run a enterprise, however what I really feel has occurred… is loads of us have been so busy specializing in our enterprise that we have given up on public providers and it permits the individuals on the fringes — left and proper — to get in,” Nelson mentioned. “We have to determine the leaders of the long run and do every little thing potential to convey them alongside.”

He mentioned he additionally thinks financial improvement efforts look loads totally different in 2022 than they did 20 years in the past.

“It was all about industrial improvement; that is not the top all be all of financial improvement now,” he mentioned. “Youthful individuals transfer the place they assume is cool then discover a job or begin a enterprise. It is all about high quality of life.”

Examples of such efforts El Dorado has already undertaken, Nelson mentioned, embody the Murphy Arts District, the El Dorado Promise and even small companies like Three Birds Brewing Co.

“If we do this stuff, Arkansas’s finest days are nonetheless forward. El Dorado… you have got made nice steps, however guess what. It by no means stops. It is laborious work,” Nelson mentioned. “I’ll continues to say to individuals ‘Have you ever been to El Dorado? Have you ever seen their downtown? Have you ever seen MAD?’ El Dorado is doing it proper.”

Nonprofit Excellence

Three finalists for this yr’s Nonprofit Excellence Award have been featured through the luncheon: El Dorado Connections; the Single Guardian Scholarship Fund; and the South Arkansas Historic Preservation Society.

Offered yearly by First Monetary Financial institution, the Nonprofit Excellence Award gives $10,000 in prize cash to 1 successful group and two different finalist organizations and helps all three finalists produce a video to be used in advertising and marketing.

This yr’s winner was El Dorado Connections, which works to recruit and match volunteers with wanted providers all through south Arkansas. Director Julie Amis and Volunteer Supervisor Cheryl Splawn accepted the award, $5,000, for the group.

El Dorado Connections’ (RSVP) Retired Senior Volunteer Program was highlighted of their video. This system helps to match retirees with volunteer initiatives that match them; for instance, matching retired lecturers with packages on the Literacy Council.

The Arkansas Single Guardian Scholarship Fund was the primary finalist. Program Supervisor Sandra Warren and Board Member Ray Winiecki accepted the award of $2,500.

South Arkansas Historic Preservation Society Government Director Steve Biernacki and Board Chair Vince Dawson accepted the $2,500 second finalist award.

Additionally acknowledged through the luncheon have been contributors within the Chamber’s annual Management Union County program. ULead class X graduated in February, and members of ULead class XI began this system on April 19.

Janice Hicks was named the Chamber Ambassador of the Yr.

“I admire everybody,” she mentioned, wiping away tears of gratitude.

The annual assembly was held on Wednesday, April 20, and was sponsored by Murphy USA.


Cheryl Splawn is seen speaking about El Dorado Connections’ RSVP program in a promotional video created by First Monetary Financial institution. El Dorado Connections acquired the Nonprofit Excellence Award through the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce’s annual assembly on Wednesday, April 20, on the First Monetary Music Corridor. (Caitlan Butler/Information-Instances)


Attendees mingle on the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce’s annual assembly on Wednesday, April 20, on the First Monetary Music Corridor. (Caitlan Butler/Information-Instances)

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