The Great Berryville Rollout: Economic development blueprint to be unveiled July 5

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A cookout and dedication of the new Career Center are part of plans for “The Great Berryville Rollout” at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 5, at the Berryville National Guard Armory when city and University of Arkansas Extension Service officials present the city’s Economic Development Blueprint and Strategic Plan. The public is invited to attend.

Congressman Steve Womack will be on hand at the event as Berryville and Carroll County celebrate economic development and education.

“Berryville Works 2020: An Economic Development Blueprint & Action Plan” is the result of a series of meetings and surveys that began in August 2015, when representatives from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Winrock Foundation led city officials and a steering committee of community leaders in a discussion of community assets and their vision for Berryville’s future. In September 2016, Dr. Mark Peterson, director of the Breakthrough Solutions Program of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, continued the work on the initiative.

City officials, the three Carroll County school districts and representatives of Tyson Foods have been working on a plan to provide career and technical training for Carroll County students for more than a year, the impetus being the city’s ownership of the armory. Wednesday’s ceremony will include a “dedication” transforming the armory into the Carroll County Career Center and Connect 4 Program.

At the beginning of the strategic planning process, the Arkansas Army National Guard handed ownership of the Berryville Readiness Center (armory building) to the city. Mayor Tim McKinney said at the time of the deeding ceremony that he would like to see the armory used for workforce development, primarily for high school students wanting to develop a trade or craft. The Berryville, Green Forest and Eureka Springs school districts have formally agreed to run the Career Center for their junior and senior students who are interested in pursuing a technical education, and Tyson Foods has been instrumental in taking the plan to the implementation stage.  

“Workforce development is a key part of two of the goals in our economic development blueprint,” said Chris Claybaker, director of Berryville Economic Development. “As the Career Center announcement began to take shape, we had to change one of the strategies in the plan from ’work to accomplish’ to ‘support.’ Tyson’s involvement in the planning of the Career Center, and now as we begin to implement, has been huge.”

The Kiwanis Club will be serving hot dogs and hamburgers that Cornerstone Bank will be grilling Wednesday for the event, and Equity Bank will provide all the fixings and drinks. The Great Berryville Rollout will begin at 11 a.m., and hot dogs and hamburgers will be available around noon. Tables will be set up to allow for interested persons to sign up for one of five action teams that will pursue the strategies outlined in the Blueprint to meet the five goals identified during the planning process. NorthArk Community College will also be onsite to discuss educational and career opportunities.

Plans are for the Carroll County Career Center to be operated by the three Carroll County school districts with a focus on industrial maintenance and provide students a cross-curricular background in different trades.

“We looked at various operations and centers but found none that came close to the Siloam Springs High School Career Center under the direction of Mike Rogers,” Claybaker said.

“Tyson has retained Mike to set up similar centers, and he has been working with us to locate one of the first ones here in the armory,” Claybaker explained.

Rogers met with members of the Berryville, Eureka Springs, and Green Forest school boards in April.

“Having the collaboration of all three districts is unique,” Rogers said at that meeting. “I think that’s what schools across the nation will be heading to in a few years. Carroll County is ahead of the curve.”

The Economic Blueprint and Strategic Plan includes the community’s vision: “Berryville is a safe and economically stable, sustainable and diverse community that retains its rich heritage, its natural beauty, and its sense of place.”

The five goals include Education and Workforce Development; Employment and Job Creation; Quality of Life and Place; Vibrant downtown and Retail Community; and Funding and Financing Community and Economic Development.

According to Mayor Tim McKinney, the blueprint will allow Berryville to move forward as a regional leader and retail hub “while maintaining that hometown charm and feel that makes our community unique and desirable,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with the interest and involvement of so many of our citizens.” He added that it has been a long road to get to this point, “but the hard work is just beginning as we begin to put this plan into action.”

Claybaker added, “Economic development is a team sport. We need community involvement.”

Anyone interested in Berryville’s future is encouraged to be at this event at the Armory Wednesday morning.

“I believe there is almost unanimous consensus that people in Berryville want to see our community continue to grow and prosper but in an orderly and deliberate way. 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.

“And we can’t emphasize enough the significance of the three Carroll County school districts development of a Memorandum of Understanding – the first in the state – to operate the Connect 4 Program. The city, the three school districts and Tyson make for an ideal Public-Private Partnership (P3),” he added.

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