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ASU's Delta Center for Economic Development to launch new initiative

Feb. 8, 2008 -
- The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, in partnership with the Delta Center for Economic Development at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, announced a new rural development initiative at yesterday's conference of Arkansas county judges held at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock.

The "Powering Rural Development" initiative will focus on county-led economic development, which the partnership calls the "last frontier" in economic development in the state.

"We need two things for rural development to really start happening in Arkansas," said Alan McVey, executive director of the Delta Center.  "A strong organizational base for leadership and action is necessary and, secondly, the approach has to be regional."

"Most of our smaller towns just lack the resources to go it alone," said Kirkley Thomas, manager of economic development for the rural electric cooperatives.  "County government is their common denominator. It is the strong neutral organizational base that can, at least initially, help neighboring towns combine their economic development efforts into viable strategies."

The initiative will select three counties through a competitive process each year for three years. These counties will then receive free on-site training, technical assistance and coaching in rural strategic planning, organizational development, collaboration, and project management.

Participating counties will also be assisted to develop strategic partnerships with at least one adjacent county.

The goal of the initiative is to develop a model that is adaptable to all Arkansas counties.

"Every county and region is different," said McVey. "We have been working with the staff of the Association of Arkansas Counties to develop the initiative to be responsive to local differences and not be a cookie-cutter approach."

He noted that many of Arkansas' greatest resources lie in rural areas and small towns between the state's largest cities. 

Prior to coming to ASU, McVey served for 10 years as deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development.

For more information, contact the Delta Center for Economic Development at ASU at (870) 972-3000, or contact Alan McVey by email at



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