Tri-County Economic Development Council concept is in early stages

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The rural counties of Fulton, Izard and Sharp have a lot of rich history, beautiful country views and hard working people. Unfortunately, some things these rural counties don’t have enough of are jobs and economic growth. Thankfully each county has enough of those hard working people who look out for the best interest and future of the rural communities.

These roles of people vary from community volunteers, city leaders, organizations and elected county officials. The three county judges; Darrell Zimmer (Fulton), Eric Smith (Izard) and Gene Moore (Sharp) that make up the tri-county area have decided to band together to bring more opportunities to the area, an idea presented by the Sharp County Economic Development Commission (SCEDC). The recent meeting where Fulton County hosted representatives from Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) is one of the first steps of the tri-county effort.

Last week, Areawide Media reported on AEDC’s presentation and programs they have to offer. This week, those who attended the meeting have provided feedback and discussed the benefits of working with AEDC.

Fulton County Judge Darrell Zimmer’s main goal is to see revenue generated in the county and hopefully bring more opportunities for the residents of Fulton County. “AEDC offers many programs and offers guidance to communities to help with attracting businesses and overall economic development. We currently participate in some of the programs discussed. We keep our available buildings updated with Entergy program, so companies looking for facilities can see if we have available buildings,” Zimmer said.

Each county has something different to offer residents. A lot of residents in the tri-county area may live in one county, but work or shop in another. “We are constantly looking for ways to attract businesses and industry to our area. We have started working regionally with surrounding counties and communities to help with ideas on attracting new businesses and industry,” he added.

Having AEDC resources and manpower to assist growth in the area is a true asset. “I feel the presentation exposed us to a lot of information on programs available and ways we can work together to promote economic development.”

Izard County Judge Eric Smith is looking forward to the opportunities available with the help of AEDC and working with neighboring judges to better the area. “We are trying to develop a Tri-county Economic Development Council between the three of our counties,” explained Smith. It is something still in the works, but enlisting help from chambers, organizations or any job creator, will be important to the council. “Anything we can do to benefit our counties is what we are trying to accomplish. AEDC has some great grants, we just want to be there to help businesses and be a middle man for them,” he added.

Each judge wants the best for each county and are willing to put in the work to see it happen. “I don’t know if the county judges have ever got this involved but I think all three of us feel like it should be part of our job to help the counties. It is going to be a slow process but we all have different ideas,” said Smith.

Sharp County Judge Gene Moore hopes developers can see the bigger picture. “If they go out looking and focused on Sharp County, [they might not realize] there is more than just Sharp. Fulton and Izard are right here together, we have more resources when we can pull together,” said Moore. “When something benefits one county, it benefits all counties.”

Moore is excited about the resources and opportunities AEDC has to offer, but is more excited to explore how the resources the area has to offer can help and encourage growth. “We are trying to be able to have more resources for people who are interested in developing something around here. Each county can offer something different and make things better for our residents,” he added.

Former Sharp County Judge Larry Brown implemented the SCEDC, so Sharp County’s team is in place. Meetings will be held periodically to explore the resources and establish teams in Fulton and Izard Counties as well.

John Kunkel, Sharp County Economic Development Commissioner, was also on hand at the meeting. Kunkel is a Sharp County native, but experienced a much faster pace of life and job opportunities before moving back home. Now, he is involved and eager to see what opportunities could be brought into Sharp County.

“Sharp, Fulton and Izard Counties share very similar demographics. The residents in the tri-county area benefit from each county in someway; whether they live, work, shop or just drive through. Using the knowledge of all those involved, I am excited to be a part of the tri-county partnership and see what ideas we can come up with to improve the area,” said Kunkel.

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