ES Chamber hosts planning meeting on economic topics

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted a well-attended planning meeting Tuesday, May 22, that included field representatives for U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln and U.S. Congressman John Boozman.

Chamber president Jeff Feldman said the group tackled several big community issues recently concluding or upcoming in the near future.

The agenda included recruitment of a movie theater, welcoming the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), the outdoor tourism and the recreational hub, U.S. Hwy. 62 West safety improvements, and stimulating downtown Eureka Springs and the retail segment.

"The meeting's attendance reinforced that Eureka Springs is key to the image and economic success of both the county and the region," Feldman said.

Economic Development Secretary Jack Moyer, facilitated the meeting. Feldman agreed to draft a letter to movie theater companies who may not be aware of the opportunity Eureka Springs may represent.

"The Digital Film Festival, the movies recently filmed in and around Eureka Springs, the success of the Lucky 13 Outdoor Cinema, and nearly 900,000 yearly visitors to Carroll County make a compelling case for a multi-screen theater in Eureka Springs. So, we'll ask," commented Feldman.

Melissa Evans presented the itinerary for the upcoming AEDC meeting, the first of its kind in the Eureka Springs community in the last decade. Following lively discussion, it was decided that time allotted to the Eureka Springs delegation would include a tour of the recreational hub site at Dam Site Park, Planer Hill, the art and cultural district and downtown Eureka Springs. Retired Col. Bill Batsen agreed to facilitate the talking points and brief for the commissioners in partnership with Mayor Wilson, Lamont Richie, Glenna Booth and Jeff Feldman.

Kathryn Gough lauded the success of the Outdoor Tourism Subcommittee's work during Outdoor Tourism Month in March and April, and their work during the Arkansas Parks and Tourism visit in May. Gough commented that at no time has the community been so close to accomplishing the trout grow-out facility at Beaver Dam; the work of this committee and the outdoor tourism committee has brought the grow-out facility only one decision away from realizing the project.

A follow-up letter will be produced to ask the congressman to arrange a meeting with the colonel in charge of Corps projects to move this decision along. The Outdoor Tourism Committee also provided an update and shared that an estimated $75,000 in value-added press and complimentary ad placements resulted from a community investment of just $2,500 from the CAPC and $1,500 from the Chamber's Economic Development fund.

Ruth Goodwin-Hager, committee chair announced, "There is no question that outdoor tourism is alive and growing in our area. Exposing our customers to what is available will be a big charge of the committee in 2007-2008. We will again produce Outdoor Tourism Month in 2008."

The final topics discussed in the two-hour meeting included a detailed update of the consensus building effort on future Highway 62 West construction issues. The Carroll County Quorum Court, Congressman Boozman and Senator Lincoln's staff, have been involved to date. A discussion was also held on the challenges to downtown and the retail segment.

Glenna Booth presented the Arkansas Downtown Network program and the committee lauded the proposal as much needed and a perfect fit for Eureka Springs. The committee volunteered its participation in the process. Booth detailed the proposal calling it a Main Street "light".

"I welcome the partnership with the Chamber. This committee is already combined with the ACE Committee for Economic Development, and over the past couple of years has been a real model of teamwork for the community. Downtown will get a real shot in the arm if this program is a success," commented Booth.

The Economic Development Committee is composed of more than 20 community leaders and is facilitated through the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce.

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