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Kickstart Cleveland County releases community development plan

By The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Cleveland County expanding development begun in Rison in 2012
  • Plan includes several 5-year goals

(436 words) 

RISON, Ark. — Kickstart Cleveland County, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving and revitalizing Cleveland County and its communities, published the 2015 Strategic Blueprint and Action Plan on Nov. 19.

Mark Peterson, Professor of Community and Economic Development with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, presented the comprehensive community development plan, or “blueprint,” to Kickstart Chairman Britt Talent. 

“We are excited about this blueprint, and all of the progress that has been made since we started Kickstart Cleveland County in February of this year,” Talent said.  “Five new organizations have been formed in the county, activity has taken place all around the county, and four new businesses have opened in downtown Rison, the first in 25 years.”  

Talent said Rison Shine Downtown Development was formed in 2012 in an effort to revitalize areas of Rison dotted with vacant storefronts. This led to fostering several successful events including Christmas parades, a farmers’ market, the development of a pocket park, and two Homesteading Conferences.  

Rison’s development streak took on a county-wide focus when Cleveland County Extension Service agents Les Walz and Diane Clement invited Mark Peterson to bring Extension’s Breakthrough Solutions program to Cleveland County, Talent said. 

Peterson brought brought in Cromwell Architects Engineers architects Ed Levy and Clint Whitley, along with Timothy Lee with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Small Business Technology and Development Center, to help identify the county’s assets and possibilities, Talent said. 

Cleveland County was also one of two counties in Arkansas chosen for the Breakthrough Solutions Branding Workshop in June, which led to the brand for the county: “America’s Homestead – Real.Simple.Life.” 

“We are delighted to see the tremendous progress in Cleveland County,” Peterson said. “The blueprint contains several 5-year goals on critical issues, so this is about how these community leaders can really make a difference.  

“They are a great example of what can happen when people and communities across a county are committed to work together to improve their economic opportunities and quality of life,” Peterson said. “In addition, the fact that the (Rison) EAST high school students are involved is an indication that this initiative is all about building for the future.” 

“This has been a phenomenal journey and a quick race.  The ball is rolling, and I’d like to see it continue to roll,” Walz said. “I’m blown away by the number of volunteers who have participated in these activities, and it is exciting for the county.” 

To learn more about ARCO, go to:

To learn more about Breakthrough Solutions go to  For more information about community development, contact your county extension office, or visit

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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