2011 Strategic Plan

CORE Strategic Plan

In a time when economic reality has proven itself as high challenge, one Arkansas community has grabbed control of its own destiny.   Its efforts are now showing results.  “We strongly believe that job creation happens on Main Street and when our Main Street moved towards decline, we knew that we needed to take action.” Stated Former Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt

The Main Street was in Harrison, Arkansas and Hammerschmidt joined with 15 other community leaders in forming a grass roots organization that included business leaders, long term-residents, CVB and chamber officials and city and county leaders.  “It probably couldn’t have happened without John Paul, the patriarch of the community to get us all to the first meeting, but that was the initial catalyst. Afterwards we realized that we all shared very similar goals for our community and with the leadership from Layne Ragsdale and a partnership with the University of Arkansas’ Breakthrough Solutions program, positive progress began happening in a pretty quick fashion.” Stated Jack Moyer the preservationist who led the renovation of the 1929 Hotel Seville.  To say positive progress has occurred in Harrison is quite an understatement.

Since 2008 the list of accomplishments for Harrison includes public private partnerships that saw the development of the L.E. Gene Durand Conference Center at North Arkansas College, extension of the city’s infrastructure tax and the expansion of the North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. With that said, private investment has been equally as impressive with projects that include but are not limited to the renovation and re-opening of First National Bank of Berryville and The Hotel Seville or openings in the district that included  Dental Creations, FrenZy, multiple restaurants and nearly a dozen new retailers.  coreofharrison.com lists many other improvements and new store openings.

These successes had much to do with a wholesale change in community attitude brought about in good measure by the C.O.R.E. organization.  Beginning with community feedback through meetings, surveys and a Charette process, C.O.R.E. gained City and County letters of support to develop a strategic plan with implementation steps.  (This plan is to be announced on October 14, 2011)

Moving parallel to the strategic plan’s development were committees (spokes) that had individual goals. These goals were vetted by a steering committee (hub) and were included as a part of the plan, with many ideas launch while the strategic planning process was continuing.

Examples of project work of the spokes that is already underway include branding initiatives that both supported the city  being defined as an Ozark Mountain Gateway to the Buffalo River Region and a more specific brand for the downtown Core District as The Lake Harrison Marketplace that bundled together the history, destination shopping, events and entertainment, Lake Harrison and Durand Convention Center.  The group also supported the development of the Historic Harrison Business Association and its 501c3 status, partnered with the city on a transportation enhancement grant, concepted and encouraged the city to hire a city gardener and grant writer and assisted with the concept while communicating the benefits of the city assuming ownership of its Main street with a re-design of the traffic flow pattern using a road diet design that allows for bike paths.  Furthermore, C.O.R.E. developed the historic walking tour and plaque program and was a direct supporter of additional tree plantings in the district while serving as an adamant supporter of the expansion of the trail system, development of the skate park and positioning Harrison as Arkansas’ premier motorcycle destination.

During this period of redevelopment, Harrison was also undergoing an active debate relating to an Alcohol initiative that was placed on the ballot.  The wet/dry issue proved contentious however the electorate voted wet in the 2010 election.  C.O.R.E. remained above the fray as it took  no formal position on the wet/dry initiative, however it  was prepared for a wet election and the pulse of new entrepreneurs who would now be attracted to the county.  C.O.R.E. and its entrepreneurial spoke, in partnership with the Harrison Regional Chamber of commerce held training sessions for prospective business investors and a SCORE chapter was started.

Mayor Jeff Crockett, who won election in 2010 on the wings of this progressive movement, complimented C.O.R.E. on its focus, “From its beginning, C.O.R.E. worked to re-enforce the concept that a strong central core is in the best interest of the city as a whole.  This concept allowed for a greater cooperation of traditional organizations to participate as everyone had a stake in its success.”   Harrison has in fact seen a great level of participation from the CVB, Chamber, City, race relations committee and North Arkansas College as well as the state and county partners.  A recent cooperative success included the launch of the convention center that pairs together the CVB, area businesses and North Arkansas College with groups such as the Martin Luther King Commission attracted to Harrison as a meeting destination, while dually serving the organizations by working with groups such as the chamber and race relations committee to address stereotypes and racial diversity issues while in Harrison.

With the district’s decline halted and business growing again, the work of C.O.R.E. has provided a road map for the path to which the community will now follow.  On October 14, C.O.R.E. will present the results of its research from the past two years and that in which community feedback was solicited and vetted with ideas developed into a strategic plan with implementation steps.  This strategic plan, which has already been met with great support will now be furthered by the various community partners, while the C.O.R.E. group will remain intact to advocate its implementation.

A sampling of upcoming recommendations to be announced within the plan includes:

  • The Historic Harrison Business Association to upgrade to Main St program and hire a director for the organization.
  • The Harrison Housing Authority to further its initiatives and explore the enhancement and development of housing in the Core District including an upscale development that is located to overlook Lake Harrison.
  • To encourage grant writers to further an aggressive program to continue with transportation enhancements, beautification and economic development programs
  • To further the work that has been completed in the area of race relations and break the unacceptable stereotype placed upon the community
  • To further programming in the Lyric Theater
  • To develop a Buffalo River Education Center for the Region in partnership with city, county , State and Federal partners
  • To Support and encourage the  CVB to relocate its office to the Coffman Center with a visitor center to tell the stories and commemorate the people and events that shaped  the history of Harrison, Boone County and the region
  • To further entrepreneurialship by developing a Business incubator in partnership with SCORE
  • To capitalize and further transportation infrastructure that makes accessibility to the region more convenient (highway 65 / Highway 412)
  • To develop welcome statements to the district with wayfaring signage that ensures visitors know of the district and makes the experience seamless upon their arrival
  • To develop a new employer / major business recruitment plan for the Core District

The strategic plan will be regularly reviewed in community meetings with one annual review and subsequent update.  “C.O.R.E. provides a community based organization where positive ideas can be vetted by the community, be improved, gain consensus and be forwarded to the implementing party with support behind the recommendation.  We will continue that role for the foreseeable future.”  Stated Layne Ragsdale – C.O.R.E. facilitator.