UA economic development leader visits Berryville
Stacy L. Leeds who serves as the University of Arkansas’ vice chancellor for economic development, was in town and met with Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney and Berryville Economic Development Director Chris Claybaker on Tuesday morning to discuss economic development strategies for the city of Berryville.
Leeds was given a tour of the city, which included a tour of the Connect Four technical training facility in Berryville to observe students as they participated in hands-on welding lessons under the direction of C4 Director James Knight.
"We appreciate Chancellor Leeds taking time out of her busy schedule to visit Berryville and hear about all the great things we have going on here," McKinney said. "We look forward to partnering with the University as we look for different avenues to expand our economic opportunities. We were impressed by the chancellor's interest in expanding the university's economic development footprint into rural areas like Berryville."
Claybaker said he was impressed withLeeds' comments about her commitment to use her position to guide the university's vast resources to expand economic development outside the walls of the Fayetteville campus.
"When I reached out to her for an appointment, she said she would come see us here in Berryville," he said. "To be honest, I was completely blown away by her offer to come here, but it gave the mayor, the chamber director and me an opportunity to highlight all the positive things we have going on here in Berryville. I think she was impressed by that hometown feeling here, and with the progressive efforts we are making toward economic development."
Claybaker added that he anticipates a great partnership with the university to help overcome obstacles impeding local economic development.
"Mainly, I wanted to explore with the chancellor areas we could partner with the university on some of the projects we're working on. We briefly touched on the housing crisis we are facing, particularly in Green Forest, but also in Berryville and Eureka Springs, and the home program we are trying to launch," Claybaker said.
"One of the projects I was excited to discuss with the chancellor concerned the business development program the city is working on with the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce that, with the university's help, could lead to the development of a business incubator. I’m trying to identify and recruit state, federal and regional partners necessary to make it a success."
Claybaker said one last area they discussed was tapping into the university's resources and graduate level researchers in looking for ways to make Berryville’s two museums even better.
"There are numerous research opportunities for graduate students which could also lead to educational and informational exhibits to help tell more of our compelling stories," he said. "There could also be intern possibilities for the student curator-to-be."