UACES Facebook Create Bridges Holds Regional Forums to Discuss Retail and Tourism
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Create Bridges Holds Regional Forums to Discuss Retail and Tourism

by Julianne Dunn - March 22, 2019

Five Create Bridges community forums were held in Ash Flat, De Queen, Nashville, and Ashdown in the past three months as part of the Create Bridges program. 

Attendees were invited to share their perspectives on retail, tourism, accommodations, and entertainment sectors and started to develop strategies to strengthen these industries and support workforce and business development.

Create Bridges Forum in Ash Flat, AR Create Bridges Forum participants share regional assets

Two regions are participating in the Create Bridges pilot. The Ozark Foothills region includes Sharp, Fulton, and Izard counties in northcentral Arkansas, while the 3Cs (Cossatot Community Connection) region consists of Little River, Sevier, and Howard counties in southwest Arkansas.

Create Bridges is a two-year pilot program to help rural regions grow their economies through the retail, accommodations, tourism, and hospitality industries. The regions are led by regional steering committees that include extension agents, economic developers, business owners, elected officials, and education professionals. 

Create Bridges participants share their community's challenges, De Queen, AR Create Bridges participants share their community's opportunities, Nashville, AR

The regions’ first planning meetings were held in December. Now that the forums are completed, each region will hold one retail academy in March and May, focusing on area economic drivers. Following the academies, the regions will hold retention and expansion roundtables for business owners and survey employees on their workforce experiences and aspirations.

UAEX CED, the University of Kentucky, and Oklahoma State University are developing, refining and piloting the program in a cross-collaborative effort.

If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Julianne Dunn at or check out our website at