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Governor Praises South Arkansas Community During Groundbreaking Ceremony

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe praised the visionary spirit of El Dorado and the South Arkansas community during a groundbreaking ceremony for the City of El Dorado Conference Center and the South Arkansas Community College (SouthArk) Health-Science Center. "El Dorado is defying what logic says should be here," Beebe explained in his keynote address. Beebe pointed to the region's partnership efforts and shared vision as a demonstration of the area's "unique" and collaborative approach to resolving its economic challenges.

Construction of the conference center is being funded by a voter-approved local economic-development sales tax as well as a $5 million gift from Murphy Oil, headquartered in El Dorado. When complete, the center will be operated and maintained by SouthArk and will house student-service offices as well as the conference area itself. The Health-Science Center will be home to all of SouthArk's health-science programs, which currently exist on three different campuses. The college is partnering with area health providers to help shape its programs and train its students. SouthArk is succeeding in two primary goals, the governor said; offering affordable higher education, and forming partnerships with other entities, particularly those in the private sector. He praised not only the college's leadership, but also the area's citizens for this accomplishment. "You have not left this institution alone to do the work." "Education and training are more important than they've ever been in my lifetime," he said, noting specifically the growing need for trained health professionals.

In addition to discussing the positive impact that the new Health-Science Center will have on not only the college, but the entire region, SouthArk President, Dr. Barbara Jones, lauded the "innovative and unique partnership" of the conference center, calling the center a "visible sign of moving forward." El Dorado Mayor Mike Dumas concurred, saying that the center will be "alive and vibrant" and that the project will be one of the largest in El Dorado's history.

Beebe called Friday's event "a great day" and El Dorado's citizens "special." "You continue to defy the odds because of your people," the governor said. Pend Armistead, president of the Clements Group, concurred and noted that the completion of a project of this magnitude is predicated on two influences—a legitimate community-based need and the dedication of key and invaluable stakeholders. "The community leadership is what made this effort a reality. During times of economic slowdown, the college, with partnership from the community, found a way of solving a real quality of life problem—thus, creating a solution that will have a positive impact on generations of citizens in the SouthArk service district."

For further information about the these projects, visit the SouthArk website at www.southark.edu

February 2009

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