Leaders Work to Improve Franklin County Economy

More than 40 area leaders met recently at the Conference Center at Arkansas Tech University’s Ozark Campus to collaborate to identify “actionable” items to improve Franklin County and the region’s economies.  Dr. Jim Feldt of the Institute for Economic Advancement (IEA), located at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, facilitated the half-day workshop.

This facilitated session allowed for brainstorming within five categories:  “Grow Your Own,” Regional Approach, Quality of Place, Workforce and Education, and Other.  The session’s work concluded with three major efforts that were rated as priorities and for which a team volunteered to implement.  The three efforts are: pursue regional tourism strategies; work collaboratively with regional Chambers of Commerce; and produce an educated and skilled labor force through increased communication and collaboration between employers and educational entities.

Franklin County’s Arkansas Works Committee was formed in the fall of 2008, after the Governor’s “Arkansas Works” Conference.  The committee– composed of business, government, community and educational leaders in Franklin County– has been meeting regularly to achieve outcomes developed in a report that the committee submitted to the Governor’s Office in February 2009.  The purpose of the February workshop was to expand on the items outlined in the 2009 report and include more stakeholders in Franklin County’s Arkansas Works Committee.

The next meeting of Franklin County’s Arkansas Works Committee will be held Friday, March 12, at 8 a.m. Arkansas Tech University-Ozark’s Student Services and Conference Center.  Those wishing to contribute to the county’s community and economic development are invited to attend.  For a complete document of the workshop’s outcomes, email bnehus@atu.edu.

The individuals who planned the February workshop are: Jeff Stubblefield, Charleston Public Schools;  Bill  Gossage, Ozark Public Schools;  Bruce Sikes, ATU-Ozark;  Ray Mitcham, Economic Development;  Tony Wilson, Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative;  Chad Harberer, Ozark Public Schools; and Alice Wood, SimmonsFirst Bank.