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Brandon MathewsProgram Associate - Economic DevelopmentPhone: (501) 671-2085Email: email@example.com
CREATE BRIDGES - Celebrating REtail, Accommodations, Tourism, and Entertainment by Building Rural Innovations and Developing Growth Economies
The CREATE BRIDGES initiative was launched to develop and test a process to promote and strengthen these
industries, particularly in rural areas. The process is designed to:
1. Raise awareness of the role these important businesses play in the local economy;
2. Determine challenges and barriers negatively impacting those businesses; and
3. Develop and implement strategies to strengthen the retail, accommodations, tourism, and entertainment sectors within
CREATE BRIDGES is a three year pilot with the first year spent engaging the community and collecting information and the
second year spent implementing strategies designed by the regional steering committee.
The steps include:
The Ozark Foothills region of Sharp, Fulton, and Izard counties has a demonstrated commitment to CREATE BRIDGES businesses and a clear desire to grow their tourism and retail industries. Famous for its annual
Cave City Watermelon Festival, the area is currently in the planning process for a
multi-city tourism event in 2019. It also boasts Ozarka College and the newly opened
Spring River Innovation Hub. This region’s steering committee is comprised of a diverse
group of stakeholders, ranging from city mayors to local business owners.
The 3C's region (Cossatot Community Connection) Little River, Howard, and Sevier
region is working together to elevate CREATE BRIDGES businesses. The area is home
to popular natural tourism spots, with heavy interstate traffic due to its proximity
to major highways. This region’s steering committee is comprised of county extension
agents and area economic developers, with a history of working together to conduct
agricultural and leadership programming, and has the support of University of Arkansas
Cossatot for potential training and educational opportunities.
Interviews and Roundtables completed by October 2019. The Business Retention and Expansion
interview questions can be found here:
This anonymous survey was completed by January 2020.
While manufacturing and professional services are often the focus of economic development,
businesses focused on retail, accommodations, tourism and entertainment are important
to the viability of rural communities and regions. These industries provide needed
goods, services and amenities to local residents and visitors and enhance quality
of life. They are a major source of jobs and tax revenue in rural communities. They
often provide the first work experience for residents who move up the career path
within these businesses or go on to work in other sectors.Currently, planning and training focused on these sectors is often neglected or underemphasized
despite a need to strengthen it. As a result, small and large businesses alike face
high worker turnover rates and a dwindling pool of mid/upper management workers.
The CREATE BRIDGES Initiative is a partnership among the Southern Rural Development
Center (SRDC), University of Kentucky’s Community & Economic Development Initiative
of Kentucky (CEDIK), University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s Community
and Economic Development (UACES-CED), and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension
Service. The second phase of CREATE BRIDGES launched in 2020 and includes University
of Illinois, New Mexico State University, and North Carolina State University.