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ARCO Continues Progress with Breakthrough Solutions

Nominations Made for Steering Committee

BY MYSTI GATES –

Last Wednesday, marked the first of a series of meetings to continue the momentum of the Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas (ARCO) as they took nominations to form the steering committee that will be instrumental in the continued success of this three-county organization.

The meeting was hosted by Rich Mountain Community College, a partner with ARCO, and facilitated by Dr. Mark Peterson, Professor of Community and Economic Development from the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Research and Extension.  The Steering Committee will serve as the driving force for the Downtown Revitalization Project known as Partners for the Future. Recommendations for the following Leadership Roles were provided during the meeting: Chairperson, Chief Communicator, Chief Story Teller, Creative Arts Director, Webmaster, Funding and Resource Team Leaders, Chief Historian(s), and Hospitality Leaders. More information about these roles will become available as the parties nominated accept the positions.

The Partners for the Future Project aims to create more economic opportunities in our area, specifically in Polk, Montgomery and Scott counties. The project supports a partnership amongst the three counties that will result in more jobs, more revenue and more tourists while enhancing the quality of life and preserving the natural environment of the region. This goes along with the vision of ARCO, which is “to preserve, promote, and enjoy the quality of life and natural beauty of west central Arkansas while optimizing opportunities for present and future generations.”

Based on the research of Peterson, Dr. Wayne Miller, Extension Economist and the U.S. Forest Service, the population in Arkansas grew 9.1% between the years of 2000 and 2010, but the population of the ARCO region (Polk, Montgomery and Scott counties) only increased by 2.1%. During the same time frame, job in Arkansas increased by 2.5%, but decreased by 11.1% in our region. According to the REIS Data Base, Bureau of Economic Analysis, this represents a total loss of 2,224 jobs in our region since 2000. If this trend continues, the ARCO region would suffer the loss of another 1,972 jobs by the year 2020.

Included in the Partners for the Future Program is an Economic Opportunities Study that will identify promising economic strategies based upon current and existing assets in the context of our region and the global economy. The Initiative will also produce architectural drawings of promising development projects in the region and a fiscal study that will provide strategies for dealing with funds and losses.

The total cost for such an elaborate project would have been well over $167,000 but with generous donations from the Extension Service and Cromwell Architects Engineers, the cost to ARCO is $24,329, an 85 percent savings. Therefore, ARCO has launched an aggressive three-year $30,000 fundraising drive that will support the cost of the program along with other costs that will arise during the lengthy process.

Arrangements have been made for donations to be made through the RMCC Foundation, a 501c3 corporation.

ARCO Chair Gar Eisele said, “I’m continually overwhelmed by the support of this program…by each of the communities as well as our local delegation. Everyone realizes the potential of the strength of working in numbers and as we all know, there’s no finer place to live than west-central Arkansas so to see everyone rolling up their shirt sleeves and standing shoulder to shoulder to work toward a common goal…is just phenomenal!”

Over the next two months, the focus will be on Community Engagement. Meetings will take place at the RMCC campuses in each county. For more information about the initiative or how you can become actively involved in the project, visit the ARCO website at www.arcostrong.org. Interested parties may also contact Gar Eisele at 394-4332, Carla Vaught at the Polk County Extension Office or Maureen Keese at RMCC.