UACES Facebook Create Bridges | Tourism and Business Initiatives in Rural Arkansas

Create Bridges in Arkansas

Create BridgesCelebrating REtail, Accommodations, 
Tourism, and Entertainment by Building Rural Innovations and Developing Growth Economies

Create Bridges program logo
Create Bridges aims to strengthen economies in rural Arkansas by building capacity in retail, tourism, accommodations, and entertainment sectors.

What is the Create Bridges initiative?

The Create Bridges initiative was launched to develop and test a process to promote and strengthen these industries, particularly in rural areas.

The process is designed to:

1. Raise awareness of the role these important businesses play in the local economy;

2. Determine challenges and barriers negatively impacting those businesses; and

3. Develop and implement strategies to strengthen the retail, accommodations, tourism, and entertainment sectors within a region. 

Create Bridges - Process

Create Bridges is a two year pilot with the first year spent engaging the community and collecting information and the second year spent implementing strategies designed by the regional steering committee. The steps include:

  1. Form a regional steering committee
  2. Conduct an asset map of CREATE businesses and existing training programs
  3. Host a CREATE BRIDGES forum
  4. Convene a retail academy
    1. Workforce development
    2. Business retention and expansion program
      1. Learn more about business retention and expansion here.
    3. Employee engagement
  5. Develop new strategies and actions appropriate for region based on data collected during Steps 2-4               

Upcoming and Ongoing Activities

  • Business Retention and Expansion Interviews, Scheduled throughout Summer 2019

    Businesses interested in scheduling an interview can reach Julianne Dunn at or 501-671-2158. 

The Business Retention and Expansion interview questions can be found here:

Business Retention and Expansion Interview Questions

Business Retention and Expansion Interview Questions - Ozark Foothills 

  • Employee Engagement Survey, to be distributed in Summer 2019
  • Strategy Development and Launch, Fall 2019 

Past Events

Create Bridges Forum/Rally

Retail Academy 

Business Retention and Expansion Roundtables

  • May 6, Sevier County Business Retention and Expansion Roundtable, UA Cossatot De Queen campus
  • May 20, Howard County Business Retnetion and Expansion Roundtable, Arkansas Extension Homemaker's Center, Nashville
  • May 21, Little River County Business Retention and Expansion Roundtable, UA Coasstat Ashdown campus 
  • May 29, Izard County Business Retention and Expansion Roundtable, Calico Rock
  • June 6, Sharp County Business Retention and Expansion Roundtable, Ozarka College-Ash Flat
  • June 19, Fulton County Business Retention and Expansion Roundtable, Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery

Create Bridges - Regions Served

Ozark FoothillsOzark Foothills Forum - January 31

The Ozark Foothills region of Sharp, Fulton, and Izard counties has a demonstrated commitment to Create Bridges businesses and a clear desire to grow their tourism and retail industries. Famous for its annual Cave City Watermelon Festival, the area is currently in the planning process for a multi-city tourism event in 2019. It also boasts Ozarka College and the newly opened Spring River Innovation Hub. This region’s steering committee is comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders, ranging from city mayors to local business owners.

3C's (Cossatot Community Connection)

De Queen Arkansas  The 3C's region (Cossatot Community Connection) Little River, Howard, and Sevier region is working together   to elevate Create Bridges businesses. The area is home to popular natural tourism spots, with heavy interstate   traffic due to its proximity to major highways. This region’s steering committee is comprised of county extension   agents and area economic developers, with a history of working together to conduct agricultural and leadership   programming, and has the support of University of Arkansas Cossatot for potential training and educational   opportunities.  

Want To Get Involved?

There are many ways to get involved in Create Bridges. Choose an option below and a regional steering committee member will reach out shortly. 

                 Join the Create Bridges Regional Steering Committee     Engage Create Bridges Businesses                      Host a Create Bridges Meeting    Hold Business Retention and Expansion Interviews    Sponsor a Create Bridges meeting                            Support Employee Engagement         Stay current on Create Bridges strategies 

For general inquiries, contact Julianne Dunn, Instructor - Economic Development, through email at or by phone at 501-671-2158. 

For information about the Ozark Foothills region, contact Graycen Bigger by phone at 870.335.7409 or through email at

For information about the 3C's (Cossatot Community Connection), contact Lisa Taylor (Sevier County) at, Bethany Barney (Little River County) at, and Jean Ince (Howard County) at

Learn more about Create Bridges

While manufacturing and professional services are often the focus of economic development, businesses focused on retail, accommodations, tourism and entertainment are important to the viability of rural communities and regions. These industries provide needed goods, services and amenities to local residents and visitors and enhance quality of life. They are a major source of jobs and tax revenue in rural communities. They often provide the first work experience for residents who move up the career path within these businesses or go on to work in other sectors.

Currently, planning and training focused on these sectors is often neglected or underemphasized despite a need to strengthen it. As a result, small and large businesses alike face high worker turnover rates and a dwindling pool of mid/upper management workers.

The Create Bridges Initiative is a partnership among the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC), University of Kentucky’s Community & Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s Community and Economic Development (UACES-CED), and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service.

Create Bridges Regions in Oklahoma           Oklahoma Create Bridges Regions in Arkansas                Arkansas    Create Bridges in Kentucky                   Kentucky   

Partner Links

OSU Extension Logo                              Kentucky Extension LogoSouthern Rural Development Center Logo