This background on the Berryville Works 2020 comes from an article written by Meleah Perez of the Univ. of Arkansas’s System Division of Agriculture.
Highlights of the story include how Berryville has taken its first steps toward long-range economic and community development with a plan which seeks growth without losing hometown charm
A northwest Arkansas community whose town hall fronted by has a classic Southern gallery and porch is taking steps toward a goal of economic growth that also preserves the qualities cherished by its residents.
Leaders in Berryville, a town of about 5,600 people, and University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture faculty and staff have been collaborating to develop an economic plan to provide job growth and more economic opportunities to the community.
On July 5, 2017 the city broke ground on a Carroll County Career Center. It was dedicated in what used to be the old National Guard armory, a big, visible first step in a process what Chris Claybaker, Berryville’s director of economic development, said needed to be “orderly and deliberate” and “a team sport.”
That same day, Mayor Tim McKinney and other community leaders rolled out the Berryville Works Blueprint for growth, which has five goals, which are:
- education and workforce development
- employment and job creation
- quality of life and place
- vibrant downtown and retail community
- funding and financing community and economic development
The Career Center is the result of the work of the Carroll County Collaborative, a group of leaders in the county that includes representatives from the Berryville, Green Forest and Eureka Springs school districts, working closely with Tyson Foods.
“My take from the process to produce this plan is that this community understands that if a community is not growing, it’s dying. However, that said, no one wants growth to overshadow or change what makes Berryville special – that hometown feel,” Claybaker said. “We need community involvement.”
Education and job creation are primary goals of Berryville Works 2020.
The Career Center addressed two goals: education and workforce development and employment and job creation. It will be available to citizens throughout the county including two other Carroll County towns, Green Forest and Eureka Springs.
“The Career Center will be for Carroll County junior and senior high school students who want to gain more knowledge and skills that will be valuable in their workplace or for future employment during the day,” said Mark Peterson, a University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture professor of Economic and Community Development.
“At night, this program will serve adults in technical instruction, training and apprenticeship,” Rogers said.
Classes are projected to begin in August 2018, said Mike Rogers, a senior director at Tyson Foods and a participant in the development of the Career Center. Tyson donated $1.3 million to develop the Career Center, said Leadra Martin, the Carroll County staff chair with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The Career Center will be the home of the Connect 4 program, an industrial maintenance training and pre-apprenticeship for high school students during the day, said Mike Rogers, a senior director at Tyson Foods and a participant in the development of the Career Center.
Beyond the Career Center, Berryville’s goal is to have a pre-K-12 educational system that partners with the community colleges and area universities to create workforce training opportunities, according to the blueprint.
Another aim is to develop job opportunities with living wages; safe, clean businesses and industries; and marketing that attracts businesses, families, visitors and retirees. For Quality of Place, Berryville will develop cohesive neighborhoods for all citizens, affordable housing, recreational opportunities and health care, according to the blueprint.
The city also wants to incorporate retail bases that includes locally owned stores to attract shoppers. Lastly, Berryville will create strategies to support community and economic development and identify viable funding options, according to the blueprint.
Berryville’s plan has been in the making since 2015. It brought community leaders together, such as Claybaker and the Berryville Mayor, along with Winrock International, a nonprofit organization that assists with disadvantaged communities. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission also sent a representative to work on the plans.
Later, when it was time to move discussions into action, Peterson got a call from Claybaker. “I’ve known Chris for some time,” Peterson said. “Chris said he wanted to make this happen.”
In September 2016, Peterson with the Breakthrough Solutions Program of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service agreed to work with this initiative. Martin was also involved and assisted with a community survey to identify the challenges and opportunities in the community.
Peterson is no stranger to Berryville’s desire for growth. He is much in demand for strategic community development plans across Arkansas. It’s what he does as part of his Breakthrough Solutions program to engage the community in creating a map for growth, deciding on goals and then working together to accomplish those goals.
“This was as significant event in the life of Berryville,” Peterson said. “There’s a lot of excitement about moving this forward and a lot of the action steps in this blueprint are already underway. It’s not going to sit on a shelf.”