Kick-starting the local economy
Faced with vacant store fronts in downtown Rison, declining population and a stagnant economy, community leaders in south-central Arkansas formed Rison Shine Downtown Development, a grassroots organization dedicated to revitalizing the downtown in 2012. Rison Shine created the first Cleveland County Christmas Parade, a pocket park and a new farmers market.
In 2015, Arkansas Extension worked with grassroots community groups and facilitated stakeholder meetings to create the Kickstart Cleveland County Blueprint and Action Plan.
As a result of the Kickstart Cleveland County action plan, eight businesses have opened, increasing the number of businesses by 25%. Seven action teams have been formed, a Pioneer Village Commission was appointed to restore the village, two buildings have been restored and over $20,000 has been raised. To promote the county, local students have been involved in creating videos and a website. Four new events have been held, engaging more than 10,000 people. And more than 5,000 volunteer hours have been logged in community project work. In addition, three new farmers markets were established, and plans are under way to build a new Johnny Cash museum.
Kickstart Cleveland County has become a statewide model for successful rural community development.