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— Sometimes it seems like we’ve grown so accustomed to poor-mouthing our area that we fail to see the strides that we actually have made. There’s no denying there have been years, even decades, when the significant economic hits we’ve taken make it difficult to hope we can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Remarks by Dr. David Rankin - former president of Southern Arkansas University, quoted in an El Dorado News-Times article and published Saturday in the Camden News - indicate there is positive economic news for our region of Arkansas.

Rankin, who is chairperson of the Golden Triangle Economic Development Council, made the remarks during the council’s recent annual dinner. The Golden Triangle is composed of the cities in Ouachita, Union, Columbia and Calhoun counties, with emphasis on economic development in the region’s three largest cities: Camden, El Dorado and Magnolia.

Rankin said the regional economy is strengthened by our diversified industrial base, driven in significant part by the timber, oil and gas, defense, tourism, chemical and manufacturing industries.

Contrary to the woe-is-us thinking that we allow ourselves to perceive our economy as among the worst, Rankin said our varied industrial base is “one of the reasons South Arkansas hasn’t cratered like many parts of the country, because if oil is down, maybe timber is up, and maybe if manufacturing is doing bad, the chemicals are doing better; and it’s kept us from the extreme ups and downs like we see in some parts of the country.”

While there are those who persist in pessimistic thinking about the South Arkansas economy, Rankin pointed to business and infrastructure expansions and improvements in various parts of the counties in the Golden Triangle as indicators of economic growth.

“You can see growth for all the counties,” he said. “We hope that keeps up. We think that’s an important economic parameter of what’s happening in our part of the world,”

So, what we see in front of us seems, indeed, to be the light at the end of the tunnel, and it indicates that our economic engine is headed in the right direction.

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