TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - The ASU Delta Center for Economic Development has been working with two Region 8 counties in recent months. The college is using a pilot program named "Powering Rural Development" to help various counties improve lifestyles and focus on their resources available to offer potential industries.
"Our goal is to help rural communities develop a strategic plan for community and economic development. We're helping them understand where their best future opportunities could lie," said Alan McVey, Executive Director of the Delta Center for Economic Development.
McVey told Region 8 News Monday the university selected Poinsett, Sharp and Chicot counties for the program, which allows city and county leaders the opportunity to discuss various sectors of life.
"Sharp County has incredible natural resources. They are very rich in resources that people would come from other parts of the country to take advantage of. Whether it's the Spring River or whether it's the golf courses and amenities that are offered at Cherokee Village," said McVey.
McVey said Sharp County is a good example of diversity, which he said is needed to create sustainability.
"Parts of the county from the different communities within the county begin to realize the county has and each community brings its own set of assets and oftentimes different assets and strengths," said McVey.
According to McVey, Trumann, Harrisburg and Marked Tree held focus group meetings last week. The goal was to identify specific resources they cities could offer. The meetings were open to the public and lasted three hours.
"Powering Rural Development is focused on helping rural communities understand that it's important for them to work regionally. It's important for them to leverage their talents and their resources and take advantage of new trends in economic planning and really work together to make itself more marketable and competitive," said McVey.
McVey said he was proud to see that Poinsett, Sharp and Chicot County residents that attended the focus group meetings were in tune with the local economy.
"There's a lot to offer and I think for them to sit collectively in a room, they begin to realize how many different strengths they have and how many different resources they have," said McVey. "All the communities are coming together to sit down to say, collectively, we can accomplish more than we can individually."
Trumann Mayor Sheila Walters said she was enthusiastic when Poinsett County was chosen for the program. Walters said the city of Trumann benefits from tourism dollars from its hunting and fishing industry.
The city of Marked Tree expressed optimism regarding its airport. Lepanto mentioned its museum and Harrisburg talked about Lake Poinsett State Park at the first meeting of city and county leaders earlier this year.
Education was also a key factor the county is looking at increasing. The county would like to increase its graduation rates.
"I thought it was really interesting because they were talking about the people who work in factories and that you're probably going to have to have a lot of computer skills and probably have a college degree to work in a factory," said Walters. "We're working with the school system and they've already identified the fact that you need a good quality education in order to be prepared for the future."
Walters said the city and county are looking at where things will stand in 2050. The county is in the process of developing an economic strategy plan to improve education, pay rates and jobs offered.
"The dynamic of economic development has changed. Industrial recruitment has changed. It's a much different environment today than just trying to bring a factory or bring a business to their community," said McVey.