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Group talks economic and community development

<p>Making choices: Karey Sparks of Logan County Glass and Mirror and the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce, and Tracy Richey of the Paris School Board prepare to choose goals for the community at a meeting about economic and community development held here last week.</p>

Making choices: Karey Sparks of Logan County Glass and Mirror and the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce, and Tracy Richey of the Paris School Board prepare to choose goals for the community at a meeting about economic and community development held here last week.

Seven advanced students from the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway and a community development specialist from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service came to Paris on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

They toured the community, talked with people and discussed what they saw and heard and the future of Paris with 25 residents and business people later that day.

The visit was a follow-up from a visit by CDI personnel and community development specialists with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in July.

The seven advanced students from CDI are in the fourth year of their studies. They study for one week a year at UCA and take what they have learned back to their towns.

They began their investigation of Paris by looking at how the community is portrayed using online resources and presented the group with both positives and negatives regarding what they found.

They did the same thing based on their tour of the community and interviews with people.

The positives included strong schools, Mount Magazine, a quaint downtown, outdoor recreation, affordable housing, low cost of doing business and low crime rate, proximity to larger cities, parks and green spaces, a municipal airport, availability of buildings, potential for growth, the name of the community and others.

The negatives included a declining and aging population, a large percentage of people without education beyond high school, low purchasing power, stagnant growth, a lack of activities for young adults, weaknesses with some websites related to the city and others.

They also discussed the future and what the people from Paris would like to see happen.

The group was in town for about six hours. The discussions were held at the First National Bank Community Center.

Dr. Lee Lane, head of the Paris Economic Development Council, said after the meeting that she was amazed.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I was particularly amazed at the enthusiasm of the people attending from Paris. They were all positive about making things happen. I was also amazed at the people from CDI. They came away singing the praises of Paris.”

Lane also said she’s had a number of e-mails since the meeting from people who attended.

“They are excited,” she said. “They are ready to get started. Before, I didn’t have any volunteers. Now, I have a whole list of them.”

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