Trendsetter City: Berryville earns recognition for Connect 4 program

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney, left, and economic development director Chris Claybaker show off a plaque commemorating the city’s recognition by Arkansas Business as a ‘Trendsetter City’ for 2017.
Submitted photo

Arkansas Business has named Berryville a 2017 Trendsetter City for its Connect 4 program.

According to ArkansasBusiness.com, the Trendsetter City program is designed to honor cities that are leaders in innovative programs and initiatives for improvement and growth. Being a Trendsetter City is an honor that speaks to the commitment by city leadership and its citizens, the site says.

Winners are recognized each year in the categories of Public Safety, Infrastructure/Water, Education/Workforce Development, Wellness and Fitness, Tourism Development/Creative Culture and Environmental/Green Management Practices.

Berryville is the winner of The Trendsetter City 2017 for the Education/Workforce Development category for cities with populations between 5,000 and 20,000 people. The recognition was for the Connect 4 program, an innovative program and initiative that has forged a partnership between the city of Berryville, the three Carroll County school districts and Tyson Foods.

Mayor Tim McKinney said he was pleased for the city to be recognized as a trendsetter by Arkansas Business.

In July, McKinney dedicated the Berryville Readiness Center, a former armory for the National Guard, for use as a career center for local students. The Carroll County Career Center will house the Connect 4 program and will be operated by the Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest school districts.

The Connect 4 program will focus on industrial maintenance and provide juniors and seniors with a cross-curricular background in different trades.

“We felt like it was something that was needed,” McKinney said. “It’s why we approached the schools when the building became available.”

The city has been assisting with the remodeling of the building.

“Once it’s up and running, the schools will operate it,” he said. “We’re excited to see it get up and running.”

Superintendent Owen Powell said receiving the honor was exciting news for the Connect 4 program.

“I totally agree with the award,” he said. “This is a one-of-a-kind program and the first of its kind. It’s a game-changer. I think this cutting-edge program is going to be great for Carroll County kids.”

Chris Claybaker, economic development director for Berryville, said he knew he needed to nominate the Connect 4 program for the award because of how strong the partnership is.

“This program illustrates what happens when you put some good partnerships together,” he said. “You can do so much more when more entities get involved, and our local school districts, the city of Berryville and Tyson have come up with a great program.”

Claybaker said the idea of a career center and workforce development first came up during discussions in the formulation of the “Berryville Works 2020 An Economic Development Blueprint & Action Plan.” The plan was the result of a series of meetings and surveys that began in August 2015, he said, 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, Claybaker said.

He said city officials, the three Carroll County school districts and representatives of Tyson began working on the plan to provide career and technical training for Carroll County students over the next year, the impetus being the city’s ownership of the armory.

At the beginning of the strategic planning process, he said, the Arkansas Army National Guard handed ownership of the Berryville Readiness Center to the city. Claybaker said McKinney had 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.  Carroll County’s three school districts have formally agreed to run the Career Center for junior and senior students who are interested in pursuing a technical education, he said, and Tyson has been instrumental in taking the plan to the implementation stage, donating $1.3 million to the project to get it started.  

“The neat thing is that Berryville was in competition with all cities that have populations between 5,000 and 20,000 in the state,” Claybaker said. “For Berryville to win that award is awesome. This program stands out so strongly as an example of an ideal public-private partnership.”

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