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04.17.2015

The El Dorado Way

This week's column and radio address is brought to you by First Lady Susan Hutchinson.

As executive director of Main Street El Dorado, Mark Givens fields a lot of calls from people asking about his town. He’s happy to talk.

He tells them about the El Dorado Promise scholarships; the revitalization of Main Street; the plans for a one-of-a-kind arts-and-entertainment district; the new Murphy Oil headquarters; the music festival; and the upcoming renovation of the Municipal Auditorium.

Hearing all that, some folks are skeptical. After all, El Dorado is a small town in south Arkansas built on a 1920s oil boom. So Mark keeps a file of internet links about all the progress and sends them to the skeptics. Otherwise, he says, “they think I’m making all this up.”

On Tuesday, the Governor was privileged to visit El Dorado for El Dorado Promise Signing Day. The Promise scholarship is wholly funded by Murphy Oil, and it rewards every graduate of El Dorado High School with a college scholarship.

Since its inception in 2007, almost 1,600 graduates have taken advantage of the Promise. They’ve attended more than 60 different colleges and universities all over the United States.

The Promise acts as both an educational and economic-development engine. It attracts families to El Dorado. It attracts businesses to El Dorado. It provides students with the chance at a college education and — here’s what I really like — it inspires more and more “Promise graduates” to return to the city, start their careers, and give back to the community. It has created a cycle for success.

Arkansas can learn a lot from the El Dorado Way.

Hometown companies like Murphy Oil and Murphy USA and private developers like Richard Mason have made a point of investing in their community. And it shows, especially on Main Street.

Mark Givens says that Main is 90-percent occupied — and there is a waiting list of businesses eager to join the crowd.

Meanwhile, the $70-million arts district will rise from the renovations of several old buildings downtown. It represents one of the largest historic preservation efforts in Arkansas. Some $44 million has been raised, and a groundbreaking is planned for this summer.

Once completed, the district will include indoor and outdoor theaters, a museum, restaurants, and even a park. The plans for the new district are so impressive that, well, I should probably send you an internet link.

I could go on about all the good things happening in this once-and-future boomtown … but, to believe it, you really should see it for yourself.

 

El Dorado Promise

Main Street El Dorado

Musicfest El Dorado

El Dorado Arts and Entertainment District

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