Celebrating 30 years

El Dorado Inc. celebrated 30 years during its annual meeting Thursday afternoon.

El Dorado Inc. President Brandon Knowles called the meeting to order, saying, “Our meeting today marks the beginning of 30 years the city of El Dorado and El Dorado Inc. have worked together in a public-private partnership to grow and expand the El Dorado community and business.

“2016 was a year for strong existing business growth and housing initiatives.”

The existing business improvements included Motel 6, ConFab, Sunny Stop, White Eagle Credit Union, McDonald’s, JRS Rentals/Patten Automotive, Charley’s Appliance, Animal Care Center and OCI.

They also took a look back at the last 30 years with a video about the start of Inc. and its progress over the years.

It was said there had been two economic developers in El Dorado from the early 1970s, and at that same time, a report was done on where economic development was and needed to go. From that, came the start of El Dorado Inc.

It was said in the video, former mayor Ed Blake was instrumental and supportive of El Dorado Inc. getting started, something important for it to be successful.

Original board members included Steve Waite, Gene Adams, Ed Blake, David Clymer, Ramon Criss, Nick Badwey, Steve Funk, Richard Pottorff, Duane Van Horn, Rod Ziegler, John Banks, Clifford Stone, Frank Becker, Albert Hogoboom, Marc Myers, Fayne Henson, Jim Phillips, Dennis Hanson, Richard Masica, Dave Matthews, Joe Ware and Tom Murry.

In the video, it was stated the partnership of the public and private sector brings a synergy to the group.

An early involvement of Inc. was bringing the El Dorado Correctional Facility to the community and the first major business involvement was with Pioneer Balloon.

Steve Funk, an original member and past president of the board, also spoke to the group.

“So much happened early in El Dorado Inc. that it seemed once we got into the 90s things would slow down,” he said. “That wasn’t really true. We continued to make a lot of progress.”

He said Inc. came about due to several things, such as the Texaco Refinery threatening to close.

He said bringing Stan Stewart, former city manager, to town was the catalyst they needed to bring the public and private sector together. He also gave credit to Blake.

“I really think it was their partnership at the city level that allowed the rest of the city commission to come along and to partner up with the private sector to really move the community,” Funk said.

He went on to talk about the group and how decisions are made by the whole group.

“We are at a point in El Dorado where we have new leadership coming to town,” he said. “We are at a point we have a new hospital CEO, Jim Kirkbride, and we’re glad you’re here. We have our two major cultural organizations in town, the history museum and Coutts Museum, are both looking for new leaders and the city commission is interviewing for a new city manager. So we’re at a point where we are going to have the opportunity to forge new partnerships with new people as we move forward, and I look forward to doing that in the future. I hope as we look forward to the next 10 years, the public-private partnership you heard repeatedly, that we really strengthen that and get that back to where it was in the early days. It’s so important we are all on the same page and going the same direction.”

He then recognized any original members and past presidents.

“Thank you all for your participation throughout the years and I look forward to another 30 years of El Dorado Inc. being the vibrant, important industrial development tool that has served us so well to this point,” Funk said.

He also remembered three past president who are no longer with them: Gene Adams, Tom Murry and Albert Hogoboom.

The group then elected the new board members, including: President Lonnie Currier, Vice President Gene Kimble, Treasurer Vic Auer and Secretary Kellen Adams.

Currier then thanked Knowles for serving as 2016 president.

“We appreciate your outstanding leadership to El Dorado Inc.,” he said.

Knowles then concluded by saying he knew Currier was going to do a great job.

“The past year has been very rewarding,” he continued. “I had the opportunity to be the president of Inc. and serve the board members and members. It was great to be able to do that.”

He also recognized a couple of other people who work behind the scenes and do most, if not all, of the work. Those were Ed Gard, who served on the Ad Hoc Housing Committee; Lance Lechtenberg; Jennifer Callaway, with Inc.; and Linda Jolly, director of El Dorado, Inc.

Currier then took the podium again.

“I am looking forward to working with the existing board and new directors,” he said.

He recognized the new directors: Kirkbride, Ryan Koontz, Adams, Samuel McVay and Tony Allison.

“For the 2017 agenda you can expect to see the housing expansion and existing business to continue to be at the forefront of what we do,” Currier continued.

The major housing initiative in 2017 includes a Moderate Income Grant; housing assessment tool, HIAC presentation; residential housing open houses; ECKAN Weatherization program; and McCollom Spec Home open house.

“We would like to continue to grow membership,” he continued. “Finally, I want to thank those who have started and grown the great organization over the past 30 years. It is truly amazing the progress that has taken place. I especially want to thank Tom Murry for bringing me into the business world at ICI 15 years ago, and his son, Ryan, for carrying on the business.”

He said Murry’s example of giving back to the community set a great example for all of them.

The meeting concluded with a social time for the members.

Julie Clements can be reached at jclements@butlercountytimesgazette.com. Twitter: @BCtimesgazette