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story.lead_photo.caption El Dorado News-Times

The El Dorado City Council approved an annual contract for services and a transfer of funds between two projects that were covered by the city’s economic development sales tax.

The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce will continue serving as the city’s economic development arm in 2020 with a contract of services worth $45,000.

Council members voted on the matter Dec. 5.

The El Dorado Works Board signed off on the contract during a meeting Nov. 19 and forwarded the matter to the city council last week for consideration.

The EWB administers the one-cent sales tax, also known as the El Dorado Works tax, that is geared toward economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.

Funding requests for proposed projects are presented to the EWB and if approved by the board, the requests are then presented to the city council for final approval.

For years, the city has upheld an annual contract for the chamber to provide economic development services and the funding level has been $45,000 since 2017.

EWB chairman Greg Downum told city council members that the board approved the same amount for 2020, with payments to be made in quarterly installments of $11,250.

Downum added that council member Willie McGhee serves on the chamber’s board of directors.

He said the chamber works to attract and recruit new businesses to the area and to help grow existing businesses and industries — efforts that also include job creation and expansion.

“The chamber acts as the point of contact for the city, the (Arkansas Economic Development Commission) and the Golden Triangle,” Downum said.

The Golden Triangle is a term that is used to collectively describe El Dorado, Camden and Magnolia as an economic development entity.

Bill Luther, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, added officers have said they field dozens of calls per day from business prospects.

Luther noted that, per the terms of the contract, the chamber is to “actively promote the city at the state, national and international level.”

To that end, he distributed copies of a new state magazine that is published by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Luther said El Dorado is featured prominently in the new magazine, which will be used to help the AEDC recruit business internationally.

In August, the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission approved $2,500 funding request from the chamber for a buy-in for the new magazine.

At the time, Luther said the “high-quality, coffee table magazine” would be geared toward business professionals/executives and business prospects, including human resource departments, trade shows and the Paris Air Show.

He said Medical Center of South Arkansas officials have said they would use the magazine to recruit doctors. Additionally, Luther said the magazine would be used to entice retirees to settle in Arkansas.

Downum also asked the council to transfer $37,355 from a $150,000 budget for a new sign at the entrance of South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field to the budget improvements at Memorial Stadium.

In 2018, the EWB and city council approved $700,000 for several upgrades to the stadium, including a two-story press box on the west side and work to make the westside bleachers more easily accessible to disabled visitors on the north end.

Funding for the airport sign was approved earlier this year.

Downum said both projects have been completed and one, the airport sign, was under budget, and work at the stadium went slightly over budget.

He noted that crews encountered a few issues they did not anticipate at the 73-year-old stadium and the overage stemmed from change orders to address the issues.

“It’s one of those situations where you don’t know until you start construction,” Downum said.

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