El Dorado, AR: The New A&E Capital of the South? [Radio]

09 Jul 2016

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El Dorado, with a long A (like tornado), is not only unique in how you say it, it’s unique in what they are doing.  Jeff Sloan and Kristi Trevarrow go deep into how El Dorado, Arkansas has overcome many of the obstacles that many Main Streets face. Economic downturn, population shrinkage and decreasing revenue are some of the challenges Mark Givens, Executive Director of Main Street El Dorado and Austin Barrow, President of Eldofest had to solve to revive this iconic city.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, El Dorado was an oil town that experienced enormous growth and prosperity. When the oil dried up and the oil companies left, so did the people and the towns identity.  It became time for this great city to reinvent itself.

Their first step was to find out what makes El Dorado unique – what does this Main Street have today that will want to make people visit?  What is the culture of this Main Street?  In a word, entertainment.  People that visit the local boutiques and restaurants want to be entertained, they want an “experience”, a memory.  So, with an $85 million budget, Mark and Austin went to work on creating an amazing arts and entertainment venue.

With a vision, community involvement and wise investments in renovation of historic buildings, Downtown El Dorado has become a place that you will want to visit.  Listen to the show to hear how they did it, but first, to get a feel on what a little hometown pride and a motivated community look like, watch this video that Austin and his team put together:

El Dorado is now considered an arts and entertainment destination district with 5 venues with big name headliners, plenty of dining and unique shops.  Both Mark and Austin are extremely proud of what their town has become and are happy to share their secrets to success.  2 key factors in todays show are 1) Determine your Main Streets culture by observing what is currently happening on Main Street.  In El Dorado’s case, they saw that their were a lot of artists in the community.  So by focusing on what the community was already doing and building on that, more and more people are becoming one with their community and have a place that they can call home. And, 2) It always helps to have a few Fortune 500 companies move to your town, but that only happens if those companies see signs of vitality in that downtown – no business wants to move into a city that no one wants to visit.

Listen to this remarkable story and highlights from the 2016 Main Street Now Conference right here on Main Street Nation Radio.

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