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Hot Spring County Conversations

Hot Spring County meeting attendees listen to speaker
Participants of Hot Spring County Conversations Discuss Local Issues

A Future Focused, Positive Community Development Initiative

On November 1, 2017 Judge Dennis Thornton presided over the first Hot Spring County Conversations Meeting at the College of the Ouachitas (COTO). 

Purpose of the meeting

The purpose of the meeting was twofold; to identify the needs of the county and local community leaders About 130 persons of all ages from around the county attended.

Sponsors of the HSC Conversations meetings included; UCA Community and Economic Development Institute (UCA CDI), Entergy, COTO, West Central Planning and Development District, Malvern Chamber of Commerce and the Hot Spring County Economic Development Corporation and the State of Arkansas Economic Development Commission.  UCA CDI was instrumental in the planning and execution of the meeting and collection and analysis of data.

Attendees discussed priority needs

Attendees discussed county needs and completed a Community Survey Form.  The survey asked for identification of key priorities for the future of HSC, the five most important topics for the county, words that best describe HSC, community representation and participant profiles (community, age, profession, etc.).  

Groups reported some of their answers to the whole meeting.  

The same survey form was then opened to the entire county for on-line participation for a two-week period.  A total of 205 survey responses from 25 different county communities were obtained from the meeting and the on-line participation.

Judge Thornton challenged the attendees to help move the county forward by providing ideas and leadership and described the HSC Conversations Process. One more county-wide meeting was announced for February 7, 2018.  The information gathered from both county-wide meetings will provide data and help develop a structure for community meetings to be held in each of the 5 county school districts. 

Data from both the County-wide meetings and the Community meetings will be combined to develop a multi-year strategic plan for Hot Spring County. 

Along the way, local and county leaders would identify and develop mechanisms for bringing accomplishing projects.

The ultimate goal is a long range, county-wide development plan that makes Hot Spring County an attractive place to live and work.

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County Judge Announces UCA/AmeriCorps Vista Partnership

 Judge Dennis Thornton announced today that Hot Spring County has been chosen by the University of Arkansas Center for Community and Economic Development to host an AmeriCorps Vista member to build upon the work of the Hot Spring County Conversations effort. The Vista member will assist the Judge and County Volunteers to promote the execution and reporting of the County Strategic Plan.

 This program is open to anyone over the age of 18 and the VISTAs are given a living allowance stipend and education award for their year of service provided by the program. The County will not incur any costs for this full-time placement which will be provided through UCA. Currently, the position will run from May 2020 through May 2021.

 According to Judge Thornton, “This position will report directly to me and the Facilitators of Hot Spring County Conversations.  We are very excited to have this UCA Vista to serve as an organizer and driver of the county-wide efforts of County Conversations and Strategic Plan Activities.  We look forward to hearing from those interested in this important work.”

Vistas can be college students taking a gap year or members of the community. Interested parties can go learn more about the position and apply at

Contact HSC Judge Dennis Thornton for more information- 501-332-2261


View the completed Strategic Plan HSCC 10 Year Strategic Plan

Who took the survey?

The majority of survey takers represented the communities of Bismarck, Glen Rose and Malvern, but fourteen other communities also responded.  Most of the respondents were between the ages of 37 and 65 and were either business professionals, elected officials, or retirees, indicating significant diversity in the participant demographics.  About 123 individuals indicated an interest in volunteering as a community leader. Bismarck had the highest number of participants with 55, followed closely by Malvern with 51, and Glen Rose with 40. 
Community Representation

The Top Priorities for Hot Spring County Residents

UCA CDI compiled the data from all of the surveys and priorities voiced by county citizens were: Education & Workforce Development, followed closely by Job Creation, Youth & Family Activities & Services, also highly ranked was Entrepreneurship/Small Business Development, Housing & Real Estate, Parks & Recreation, and Public Safety. 

County Wide Top 10 Priorities

 District Map

To See How Individual Communities Ranked these Priorities, Please Select Your Community Below


Bismarck Priority Areas

Bismarck participants ranked Education & Workforce Development the highest, closely followed by Public Safety. 

Bismarck participants also described the Bismarck Community with the following key words: 

Bismarck Word Cloud

Glen Rose Priority Areas

Glen Rose participants ranked Education & Workforce Development and Job Creation as their highest priorities. 

 Magnet Cover Priority Areas

Magnet Cove Participants ranked Downtown Development, Education & Workforce Development, Established Industry, and Leadership Development the highest. 

Malvern Priority Areas

Malvern Participants ranked Housing & Real Estate as the most important, followed by Education & Workforce Development. 

Ouachita Priority Areas

Ouachita participants ranked Education & Workforce Development as the most important, followed by Agriculture and Value Added Products. 


Round Table Discussion


Step 2- Reporting the Priorities and Gaining Ideas for Solutions

The second HSC Conversations meeting was held on February 7th, 2018 at COTO. About 100 people were in attendance. Amy Whitehead of UCA CDI reported the results on the survey from the November 1st meeting. Judge Dennis Thornton, Sheriff Mike Cash, Mason Robinson (COTO Workforce Development) and Rick McClure (Hot Spring County EDC) updated attendees on ongoing initiatives in Hot Spring County.

Photo: Participants of Hot Spring County Conversations Discuss Local Issues


The Top Priorities for Hot Spring County Residents

The Top 10 Priorities were grouped into five main topics- Job Creation, Recreational & Family Activities, Public Health & Safety, Education & Workforce, Housing & Real Estate and Downtown Development. 

Main Topics

Those present were divided into groups.  Each group was asked to “reflect” on actions that might moving the county toward success in each of these areas.  Group facilitators recorded ideas on flip charts and each person recorded ideas in writing on “Reflections Sheets”.  Once again, UCA CDI recorded and analyzed all of the information gathered.

 Many terrific ideas were produced.  Select the Heading below to see the combined ideas from the county Meeting.  The number beside each idea represents the frequency of that particular response.


  • Build infrastructure for targeted industries
  • Decrease blighted areas and remove abandoned old buildings
  • Expand and add railroad access to the Industrial Park
  • Increase downtown retail development including small businesses
  • Increase incentives and tax breaks for new industries and businesses
  • Build new restaurants
  • Implement soft skills training
  • Implement business retention and expansion (2)
  • Reach out to former residents, invite them to move home, bring business ideas, using community development to attract them. (2)
  • Stress importance of creativity and technology in job creation
  • Encourage young adults to have a consistent voice in economic development efforts
  • Implement more cellular coverage
  • Improve roads and bridges
  • Incorporate more ADA facilities

  • Add more indoor and outdoor swimming and water recreation facilities (7)
  • Create more walking, biking, and hiking trails (7)
  • Add skate parks (5)
  • Clean up the county and make it welcoming - including highways and roads (5)
  • Market and advertisement to highlight amenities and assets (5)
  • Add fun parks in every community (4)
  • Expand internet and broadband services (4)
  • Expand the Ouachita River Park (4)
  • Create a family and community event center (3)
  • Expand library with satellites and grants (3)
  • Implement more signage on I-30 to direct traffic to our communities (3)
  • Improve of community parks (3)
  • Promote tourism (3)
  • Control youth activity and safety (2)
  • Create a food truck court (2)
  • Create a youth center (2)
  • Give kids something to do (2)
  • Incorporate alcohol into restaurants (2)
  • Incorporate more age-appropriate activities (2)
  • Promote, revamp, and expand Brickfest (2)
  • Support and create an alliance with COTO (2)
  • Support and give more grants to the Boys and Girls Club (2)
  • Add camping area around river and park area
  • Add indoor basketball courts
  • Add tournament facilities
  • Address need for volunteers
  • Address the fact that the river is underutilized by locals
  • Capitalization on local celebrity
  • Create WIFI and charging stations at parks
  • Develop connection between arts center and COTO
  • Develop Ouachita Waterway
  • Expand and market of festivals
  • Extend youth leadership with a leadership forum
  • Implement exercise stations
  • Incorporate community functions at Courthouse Square
  • Incorporate WIFI in more cafés
  • Increase size of and possibly move fairgrounds
  • Receive input from youth on preferred activities
  • Support former athletes
  • Work on sportsmanship with parents

  • Increase neighborhood watch programs (4)
  • Implement drug and alcohol education to help combat abuse problems (5)
  • Expand and advertise farmers' market with designated area (6)
  • Address the much-needed sewer expansion (3)
  • Advertise public activities and include updates on city and county websites (3)
  • Build a community garden (3)
  • Hire a full-time grant writer (2)
  • Incorporate drug-testing pre-employment (2)
  • Increase Reserve Deputy Program (2)
  • Legalize alcohol sales (2)
  • Mandate parenting classes (2)
  • Add more disaster shelters
  • Add prescription drug drop-off in communities
  • Add railroad crossing bars and lights
  • Add safety awareness classes in schools
  • Add signage to police and health departments
  • Build more volunteer fire facilities
  • Create more police and sheriff substations
  • Create more sidewalks for pedestrian-friendly roads
  • Develop a rehabilitation program
  • Develop better health facilities
  • Educate students and parents on healthy cooking
  • Ensure fire equipment is safe and up to date
  • Extend homemakers disaster preparedness programs to communities and schools
  • Hire more county police officers
  • Hire more school resource officers
  • Implement higher pay for law enforcement
  • Implement safe kids' education on sex offenders
  • Incorporate drug courts to be supported by community
  • Increase mental health support
  • Increase parking in Bismarck
  • Inventory and use study of existing health programs
  • Newspapers to advertise public safety communications
  • Promote bravery and not being afraid to call and rely on police
  • Purchase a fleet of good, four-wheel drive vehicles for sheriff's office
  • Utilize grants for equipment
  • Utilize USDA grants for rural services

  • Build up high school and higher education career programs and training (4)
  • Develop partnerships between schools and businesses to give students experience (5)
  • Work with insurance companies to allow truck drivers with less than 2 years of experience to drive
  • Identify high turnover positions to build programs around to reduce turnover (2)
  • Identify unemployed & low-income individuals, connect them with workforce education programs, & train them for existing jobs (2)
  • Implement more community adult education classes (2)
  • Expand and stress the importance of technical skills and education (3)
  • Heightened alliance with neighboring counties (3)
  • Administer a pipeline-gap analysis
  • Cancel exemptions on final exams
  • Create a temp service to get people into a job that can become permanent
  • Create law enforcement and fire academies
  • Create more recreation venues for workforce
  • Develop positive attitude with regard to schools and community: be an ambassador
  • Develop the driver's ed program
  • Enhance I am COTO program
  • Enhance technology for education and business
  • Enlarge job placement agency to include general population
  • Ensure that the Potential workforce understands rewards for professions
  • Ensure that vulnerable kids have a mentorship program to help make safe choices
  • Expand industries
  • Implement apprenticeships
  • Incorporate more accredited and affordable online programs for the community
  • Look for skills gaps and create programs of study
  • Promote the destigmatization of using your hands
  • Push in healthcare professions
  • Raise minimum wage
  • Release more information on career opportunities
  • Work on aviation programs and industry

  • Build more apartments (5)
  • Build new housing developments with more price variety in all communities (5)
  • Decrease blighted areas and remove abandoned or old buildings (5) - use prison labor
  • Clean and maximize Jones Mill area (2)
  • Ensure that landlords are responsible (2)
  • Increase rental properties (2)
  • Increase zoning (2)
  • Invest in utilities to encourage housing development (2)
  • Set up education programs for potential homeowners to prepare (2)
  • Create a financial literacy workshop (3)
  • Develop a Habitat for Humanity chapter (3)
  • Enforcement of codes (3)
  • Expand Adopt-a-Highway program (3)
  • Address the fact that the land price is too high for developers
  • Build retirement housing in Jones Mill
  • Consolidation of Rockport/Perla/Malvern
  • Develop vacant land for single and multi-family units
  • Expand Bismarck Helping Hands
  • Identify and recruit local housing developers
  • Implement community ordinance to set property upkeep standards
  • Improve quality of life
  • Increase county beautification
  • Increase downtown living options
  • Increase home ownership
  • Increase lake access in communities
  • Increase student housing
  • Re-zone Main Street for residential and mixed-use
  • Renovate women's shelter and homeless shelter
  • Utilize grants for property improvement


Hot Spring County would like to thank the partners of Hot Spring County Conversations

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