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A plan for progress: Pine Bluff's partners in progress sponsors city improvement campaign, enlists community support.

In the spring of 1988, the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation and the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce joined forces to sponsor a community and economic development campaign.

They called it Partners in Progress. It's been an instant success, motivating more than 300 businesses and organizations to contribute $1.5 million for the enhancement of the city.

The original goal had been set at $1 million.

Four years after it was launched, it's apparent that Partners in Progress is more than just a catch phrase.

The campaign has contributed to downtown improvements, the marketing of the area and target industry research.

One of the campaign's biggest efforts will come to fruition this year. Partners for a Better Pine Bluff was launched in September 1990, according to Montine McNulty, one of two PBPB co-chairs.

McNulty is the executive director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development Inc.

She says a study conducted by a national consulting firm evaluated Pine Bluff's competitive position in relation to other mid-Southern cities.

Of 31 industrial location factors, Pine Bluff was rated "very competitive" in 12 areas and "not competitive" in 11 areas.

"One of the recommendations that came from the study was that Pine Bluff embark on a broad-based, community-participatory self-improvement effort," McNulty says. "Not a top-down effort, but one that includes all elements of society, regardless of monetary support."

That effort was dubbed Partners for a Better Pine Bluff.

The program is underwritten by Partners in Progress. But McNulty says it was clear from the beginning that "ownership" had to be transferred to the public.

To promote total community involvement and support, public meetings were held.

"More than 160 people from all walks of life assembled at the Pine Bluff Convention Center for the first meeting," McNulty says. "It was immediately apparent that inclusiveness had been achieved."

As many as 300 people attended subsequent meetings. Citizens were given the opportunity to make suggestions and pinpoint problems in the community.

Phase one was completed last spring: Community opinion had been expressed and recorded.

Five Goals

Seven task forces were formed to assess and propose objectives for PBPB. Six months later, phase two was complete.

Five goals were targeted:

* Economic prosperity. PBPB hopes to create jobs and reduce the failure rate of new businesses.

* Education. The goal is to promote cooperation among educational institutions and enlist industry support.

* Racial harmony and cultural sensitivity.

* Family. By increasing awareness of available services for the under-privileged, troubled and drug dependent, PBPB hopes to promote responsibility and the family unit.

* An attractive city. This is brought about by the improvement of Pine Bluff's physical features and encouragement of citizen participation in community projects.

"Many of our goals involve attitude changes," says Robert Handley, PBPB co-chairman and assistant principal at Pine Bluff's Southeast Junior High School. "These things aren't going to happen overnight and they will be ongoing. But, together, our people can make the community more sellable."

According to McNulty, PBPB operated on a 1991 budget of $50,000. This year's budget is estimated at $40,000, which will be provided by the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation and private sources.

"Implementation of the plans is not budgeted," McNulty says. "That will be left up to the community."

Phase three will consist of regular public forums, a steering committee, implementation teams and a coordinator, who has yet to be hired.
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Title Annotation:Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce; Jefferson County Industrial Foundation
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 20, 1992
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