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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin speaks in front of a crowd Nov. 7 at College of the Ouachitas in Malvern. Griffin was one of the many dignitaries on hand to help announce the $1.9 million federal grant awarded to Malvern and Hot Spring County. The grant will be used to place sewer and water services throughout the industrial park in the city. ( Sam Pierce)

MALVERN — A collaborative effort between the public and private sectors of Hot Spring County, as well as the Economic Development Administration, has been the next step in securing the workforce in the city and surrounding area.

At a press conference Nov. 6, on the campus of College of the Ouachitas in Malvern, Hot Spring County Judge Dennis Thornton announced the receipt of a $1.9 million federal grant for infrastructure, to be used to place sewer and water services throughout the industrial park in Malvern.

“It was a unified effort by all,” Thornton said. “It was exciting for me to see the cross-boundaries, cross-parties, pulling our resources and working as one for the betterment of community and county.

“And from it, the things that we see here with the unity in Hot Spring County, that we can be an example to other counties in our state — that unity spells success.”

The Economic Development Administration, a branch of the U.S. Commerce Department, will award a $1.15 million grant to Hot Spring County. The grant will be matched with $770,000 in local funds.

Specifically, the project will support excavation; waste, water and drainage systems; and site preparations for attracting new businesses. When completed, the project is expected to create 130 jobs and attract $15 million in private investment.

“This is a project that we have been working on for quite some time,” Malvern Mayor Brenda Walton said. “It is very exciting. It is going to be a cooperative partnership between the city and the county. It is going to make our industrial park more ‘shovel-ready.’

“That is the key to everything. If you don’t have a shovel-ready site, they are going to go somewhere else. You just don’t know how exciting this is. We all have worked so hard to make this happen.”

Tim Griffin, the lieutenant governor of Arkansas, said part of competing for industry is the quality of life.

“Having the right people in the right place who love the community and are passionate about the community and the county — all of those are critically important to the growth and development and a better life,” Griffin said.

“If you can get excited about sewage and water, you know that you can be passionate for just about anything …,” Griffin said, joking. “The more of the development burden for an industrial park that you take off of the potential investor, the more likely they are going to come in — that’s what ‘shovel-ready’ means.

“It means they have to do less before they get going. This is a critical part of making that one component better — the sewage and the water and being able to tell people, ‘move-in,’ not ‘we need a little more time, and then you can move in.’”

Griffin said part of what makes Malvern ideal for new businesses is the passersby.

“Think of how many people pass by and, at a minimum, have heard of your town’s name and spent a little money here — and a lot of places can’t say that,” Griffin said. “Malvern has a lot of built-in advantages. … Sewage and water on this day are a big deal and exciting.”

Rick McClure, director of the local economic-development commission, said this is the beginning of something that is new.

“This is the beginning of something that is going to launch us forward,” he said. “That I-30 industrial park, with its location, is within 12 hours of about 50 percent of the U.S. retail buying power.

“We are in a wonderful place, and now, it is a wonderful time, so we look for great things to happen not only in Malvern but here at the college and the workforce development.”

According to a press release from the Economic Development Administration, “this project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District.” The administration funds WCAPDD to bring together the public and private sectors to create an “economic-development road map to strengthen the regional economy,” the release states. For more information, visit eda.gov.

State Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, said this is a landmark occasion.

“People in Hot Spring County are doing good things,” Clark said. “It is such a pleasure, as we are working on economic development and trying to get things done around here. I want to you know it is not just about today.

“Hot Spring County is just amazing. … They care just so much about this community. I am just so pleased to be a part of it. With this team that you have in place, you have a lot more success coming.”

Congressman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said he is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for Malvern.

“Hot Spring County is a great place. You have a lot of good ingredients to attract industry here,” Westerman said.

“It’s been a good industrial and manufacturing area in the past, and it will be even better in the future,” he said.

“We now stand in a position that when an opportunity calls, we are ready to answer that call,” Thornton said.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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