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Local Businesses Going Through Interview Process for Business Retention and Expansion

by Julianne Dunn - June 3, 2019

Create Bridges LogoCREATE BRIDGES, a pilot program focusing on rural economic development in six rural Arkansas counties, has moved on to the next phase: interviewing business owners involved in retail, entertainment, accommodations, and tourism.

The interview process will focus on the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of operating a business in rural Arkansas. Although some of the businesses have been identified, CREATE BRIDGES project leaders welcome other business owners in Howard, Little River, Sevier, Fulton, Izard, and Sharp counties to reach out and participate.

“If you are a business owner in these four sectors, feel free to reach out to schedule an interview that will be held in your business,” said Julianne Dunn, an economic development instructor at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service.

Results of these confidential interviews will be used to develop regional economic development strategies that will be implemented next year.

The CREATE BRIDGES program is a multi-state pilot to help communities strengthen the retail, tourism, accommodations, and entertainment sectors, which provide jobs and business opportunities that frequently boost rural economies.

“Connecting with our existing businesses demonstrates the importance of these businesses to our communities and allows us to create long-term, achievable plans that will help grow our rural economies,” Dunn said.

The business retention and expansion process involves proactively connecting with existing businesses in a community to understand and respond to their business needs through individual interviews or small group roundtables. The interviews focus on workforce, community engagement, customer base, and potential expansion plans.

The CREATE BRIDGES initiative has already held community forums and a retail academy for regional leaders. Next steps include an employee engagement survey and an emphasis on identifying opportunities for workforce training for the incumbent workforce.

CREATE BRIDGES was established in October 2018 in two regions in Arkansas. The 3Cs Region includes Howard, Little River and Sevier counties, while the Ozark Foothills Region is made up of Fulton, Izard and Sharp counties.

To learn more about Create Bridges, visit or contact Dunn at