Arkansas enjoys a diversity of geography and scenery – even of climate – that’s fairly unique. It’s a diversity not found everywhere, and it helps define our state.
One might expect to find diverse cultures nestled among our mountains, prairies, forests and wetlands, and certainly, lifestyles in Arkansas can vary from Fayetteville to El Dorado and points in between. The farming families of the Delta know the land in a different way than the descendants of those who settled the hardscrabble hills and valleys of the Ouachitas and Ozarks.
But Arkansans are linked by a perseverance that binds us together, whether we’re Desha County river rats or Newton County hillbillies. Perhaps it’s the go-it-alone mentality forged by our hybrid geography, or even our eight decades or so as the only non-Texans in the old Southwest Conference.
We’re Southern, all right, but yet don’t fit so neatly into any regional puzzle. Does the true Old South end at Pine Bluff? Drive through Lake Village or Helena and feel connected to that Deep South, but stroll down Garrison Avenue in Fort Smith and channel the Old West. Strike up a conversation in Mountain Home and feel a subtle Midwest vibe.
Those nuances help form the fabric that makes up the eclectic quilt we know as Arkansas.
Our cities, towns and communities represent the many patches on that quilt, stitched together through pride, unity of purpose and determination.
Our cities and towns are determined to make better lives for their residents. They’ve done so through innovation, dedication and plain ol’ tenacity.
Arkansas Business Publishing Group is proud to recognize these efforts with the inaugural City of Distinction awards program.
With the help of presenting sponsor Crews & Associates; the Arkansas Municipal League, a supporting sponsor; and an independent panel of judges from across the state, we’ve recognized 13 Arkansas cities in five categories: Quality of Life, Workforce Development, Main Street Preservation, Green Initiatives and Technology Advancements.
Winning cities displayed some of that Arkansas tenacity with commitments to economic develop-ment, quality of life and more. Their residents are the real winners. “The programs and initiatives they have developed and implemented are excellent examples of the success that can be achieved when community leaders work together,” ABPG Publisher Jeff Hankins said.
Communities were divided into two divisions — cities and towns with a population under 20,000 and those with a population exceeding 20,000.
We think all Arkansas communities are cities of distinction, but our judges had to narrow it down. Therefore, cities being recognized this year as a City of Distinction are Arkadelphia, Bentonville, Bryant, Conway, Dumas, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Heber Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, North Little Rock and West Memphis.
Winning projects range from the extensive sustainability efforts under way in North Little Rock and Conway to the massive revitalization taking place in downtown Bentonville.
Arkansas cities are special in so many ways — from communities like Possum Grape and Fifty-Six to the metros of central and northwest Arkansas. But the 15 cities recognized here are standing out in special ways.
“We are delighted that the City of Distinction program has been established by Arkansas Business to give much-deserved recognition each year to a few of Arkansas’ outstanding cities,” Municipal League executive director Don Zimmerman said. “As citizens of Arkansas, we are getting more in the way of municipal services and programs per dollar spent than probably anywhere in the nation. We are proud and appreciative that this program will recognize some of those Cities of Distinction.”
Read on to find out just what these cities are doing in their communities to make such a difference — in essence, to make the patchwork quilt even stronger.