Fayetteville’s efforts to include everyone in its economic development initiative have empowered a community. Fayetteville Forward has engaged residents to get involved and help shape the city’s future. And in the process, it’s earned the city honorable-mention recognition as a 2011 Arkansas Business City of Distinction for quality of life. Julie McQuade, Fayetteville’s community outreach coordinator, described Fayetteville Forward as an action plan.
“It only requires a commitment from local leaders to allow the community to determine its future path and priorities and create a mechanism for continuing that involvement,” she said. “Fayetteville Forward began as a first of its kind. It encourages stakeholders at every level to get involved in making great things happen in their community.”
It all started with the Fayetteville Forward Economic Development Summit in 2009. McQuade said more than 600 participants from 334 different stakeholder groups helped identify the priorities and challenges that impact economic development in Fayetteville.
“The end product was intended to provide a detailed economic development plan and timeline that could be utilized through 2012 for the city,” she said. “However, what resulted became so much more. Participants created a list of action items…18 [of which] were set as a priority by the Fayetteville City Council in May 2009 to be completed by the end of 2012.”
In June 2009, Mayor Lioneld Jordan created the Fayetteville Forward Economic Accountability Council (FFEAC) to capture and continue that momentum. The council consists of 11 Fayetteville Forward Action Group leaders, and one member each representing the following entities: Fayetteville city administration, the City Council, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and the University of Arkansas. The council is then divided into 11 action groups.
Tangible results of Fayetteville Forward include a light rail feasibility study; a monthly cultural-arts event celebrating Fayetteville’s eclectic nature and creative culture; Find It in Fayetteville, a program promoting local products; a citywide volunteer program; creation of the Green Collar Workforce Training Center.
Objectives for the next two years include a stormwater utility, creation of a $5 million quick-action closing fund, providing a funding source for public art and planning for land use to support future light rail.
“Fayetteville Forward is about collaboration and the opportunity for anyone to get involved in driving economic development in Fayetteville,” McQuade said. “Because we believe everyone has something to contribute.”