County representatives from Baxter, Fulton, Izard, Marion, Searcy and Stone counties came together Jan. 15 to consider issues confronting the north central region and discuss what they could do about them as a northcentral Arkansas regional economic development partnership.
Jerry Estes, North Central Arkansas Regional Economic Development Corporation chairman and a representative of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, Hans Oliver, NCARED member and a representative of NAEC, and Ken Ballman, NCARED board member and member of the Izard County Quorum Court, attended the meeting.
NCARED's mission is to "... promote and develop economic growth of existing and new industry; and to enhance the employment opportunities and the quality of life for citizens of the area it represents."
At the meeting county members sat down and considered a multitude of strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats that were solicited from the member counties during the development of a regional strategic planning process by ASUMH's Small Business Management class last fall.
The meeting objectives consisted of providing an overview of the NCARED Web site, reviewing and approving the proposed NCARED mission statement, reviewing the proposed regional assessment (SWOT analysis), and prioritizing the strategic issues identified with the SWOT analysis and thereafter creating action plans to support those initiatives that identify the who, what and when.
All this means that for the first time ever, the six-county region has defined some common goals. It means that a tentative agreement has been reached, realizing that what is good for one member county is good for the region. It means that the major concern of any member county becomes the major concern of NCARED. This is a first step in development a regional dynamic which will impact how the area is perceived both internally and externally.
Also present at the strategic planning session were Sherry McDonnell, session facilitator, ENTERGY; Becky Rheinhardt, Arkansas Department of Economic Development; Don Ott, Arkansas Department of Economic Development; Steven Sanders Jr. NCARED secretary (NATCO); Roy Ragland, NCARED board member, (executive director, Searcy County Industrial Commission); Elton Kirby, NCARED board member, (Kirby-Boaz Funeral Services); Chris Marsh, executive director, Mountain Home chamber of commerce; Mike Ragland, NCARED board member, (ENTERGY); Gil de Lorenzo, executive director, NCARED; and Ken Wilson, director, Flippin Chamber of Commerce.