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Stay Positive! Keep Differences Civil, Florsheim Urges Civitans

Posted on August 23, 2012

Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on August 24, 2012.

By: Allison Gatlin – El Dorado News-Times

Before Sam Walton made Bentonville famous as the birthplace of a multi-billion-dollar international retail chain, he owned a 5,000-square-foot Ben Franklin?s variety store in Newport that he tried unsuccessfully to pass on to his son.

One person denied Walton in his venture and the entire town lost out, said Henry Florsheim, president and chief executive officer of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce.

"His landlord kicked him out because he wanted to give his retail store to his son,? Florsheim said. "One person had an issue, one person said, ?I?m not going to help you,? so Mr. Walton left and he did what he did somewhere else.?

For that reason, Florsheim encouraged those at the El Dorado Civitan meeting on Thursday to keep a positive attitude about economic development efforts in Union County and to couch their disagreements in civil tones.

But for those who insist on finding a negative for every positive within the community, Florsheim only has one word: CAVEman.

"Citizens Against Virtually Everything,? Florsheim explained, are people who focus on the negative and tear down those who try to help the community.

Though he may be retiring the CAVEman in light of somewhat negative feedback the day following an El Dorado Rotary Club meeting in which he was unveiled in a similar talk, Florsheim said the sentiment still rings true.

"That instant negative attitude is something that really affects all of us,? he said. "What we need to make sure is we keep open minds as we focus on what others are trying to do and not just focus on negative, negative, negative.?

Union County has been blessed in recent history with lowered unemployment at 8.7 percent, an increase in people working at 16,550 and at least 25 projects under wraps and in the works, Florsheim said.

He then touched on the "puzzle? pieces working together to better El Dorado, including the new "It?s Showtime!? branding and the advertising that comes along with it, the festivals and events efforts to promote that brand and the purchase of a trolley to transport visitors from their hotels to those events.

These aren?t the ultimate catalyst for change, he acknowledged, but together they make powerful tools.

Above all, don?t tear down the efforts of those who are working toward bettering the community, Florsheim said, reading a letter to the editor printed in the News-Times that listed a long number of complaints and ended on the note, "Wake up fools, it?s not going to happen.?

"So not only was there this long diatribe about hating everything, but then there was this attack on people trying to make it happen,? he said. "We don?t always agree with each other, but we can do it in a civil manner without attacking.?

Recent collaborations in El Dorado have resulted in the new which features free postings for events and jobs, new buildings at South Arkansas Community College, the El Dorado Conference Center, the El Dorado Police Department and El Dorado High School, he said.

Future projects include gateways, digital marquees and wayfinding systems, as well as a makeover on Hillsboro courtesy of $60 million set aside by the Arkansas State Highway Commission, Florsheim said. Plans are still under way, but he imagined the new look could be similar to a state highway in Conway replete with roundabouts, green space and sidewalks.

There?s no need to move people through quickly by simply widening the road, he explained.

"That?s what the bypass was built for,? he said. "We don?t need to worry about getting traffic through as fast as possible. We can improve the quality of life up and down that corridor, make it much more convenient to walk to a store, make it much safer for bicyclists.?

Leadership Union County is tackling the issue of bringing young people to the community, an endeavor resulting from 2010 Census figures which show a serious depletion in the number of people ages 44 and below in Union County, Florsheim said.

They?ll work on four target areas: 1) Affordable housing, 2) Retail, 3) Family activities, and 4) Marketing to young professionals, to target the age range where Union County?s population was most crippled in the last census.

Florsheim wrapped up by quoting "Shawshank Redemption,? encouraging those in attendance to "get busy living or get busy dying.?

"If you give up hope and stop trying, you?re going to get worse,? he said. "And this is what we?re talking about. El Dorado has been getting busy living for a long time.?