MENA, Ark. – The Arkansas Coalition for the Ouachitas and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service are launching a regional economic development initiative that will take place in Scott, Montgomery and Polk counties.
The initiative is co-sponsored by the coalition, also known as ARCO, and Rich Mountain Community College and would implement the Breakthrough Solutions Program in the three counties. Breakthrough Solutions is a program of the extension service with 17 partners in the public, private and non-profit sectors. The City of Harrison was the pilot community for Breakthrough Solutions. Since working with the program Harrison was able to attract more than 20 new businesses into its downtown.
“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and their Breakthrough Solutions Program to work together in the three counties,” said Gar Eisele, ARCO chair.
“They have a successful track record and valuable experience we can draw from here in the ARCO region.”
The Breakthrough Solutions Program has five elements: a community engagement and planning process, an economic opportunities study which would identify the most promising economic development strategies for the ARCO region, a fiscal study that analyzes the economic and fiscal impact of U.S. Forest Service funds and their potential loss on the local county governments and school districts, a three-day design charrette led by an architectural team from Cromwell Architects Engineers, and a road trip to visit and learn from other successful communities in Arkansas or adjoining states.
“An important element of this, is that it will be facilitated by the extension service, but guided by citizen input as to the most pressing needs of the community,” said Carla Vaught, Polk County extension staff chair.
“This is a step beyond VISION 2010, which was very successful for us back in 1999,” she said. “VISION 2010 and its survey were the drive that behind getting Aubrey Tatley Park done. It was the reason the city bought the land for a multi-phase park project.”
“The Quality of Life Coalition that came out of VISION 2010 is still a very viable group,” said Tammy Young, director of development and community relations at Rich Mountain Community College. “It meets regularly, and they work with the Relay for Life and Susan G. Komen fund raising projects.”
ARCO and the Extension Service made the decision to launch the initiative in a March 21 meeting.
To learn more about ARCO, go to: http://www.arcostrong.org/. To learn more about Breakthrough Solutions go to www.vworks.org. For more information about community development, contact your county extension office, or visit www.uaex.edu.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.