If there was any doubt that the people of Fayetteville would show up to provide their input to develop an economic development plan and to share their ideas on the future of Fayetteville while giving up 11-12 hours of their week, then those doubts were put to rest Saturday when around 400 Fayetteville residents turned out for Design and Deploy portion of the Fayetteville Forward summit Saturday at East Square Plaza on the downtown square.
After attending the Discover and Dream sessions held earlier in the week, all of the participants in the Fayetteville Forward summit were asked to return for a second day, with the objective to create 20-25 action items to advance the Fayetteville economy. The Saturday session was originally supposed to be held at the University of Arkansas Global Campus, but after a turnout that nearly doubled the goal of 250 participants, the summit was moved across the street to the East Square Plaza building.
Rick’s Bakery provided the morning coffee and donuts to get things started before Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark, and University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart took the stage to kick off the event.
Mayor Jordan made what alderman Matthew Petty called his “best public speech yet,” and all three men pledged that each entity, the Chamber, the University, and the City of Fayetteville would work together going forward.
The microphone was then handed to Bliss Brown to begin the second session of the summit which aimed to create action items, identify the people in the community that can take ownership of those items, and put them all into practice.
Groups were then formed, each with an objective or overarching subject to discuss.
In the morning sessions, each group was asked to come up with some questions about their particular topic and in the afternoon, they were asked to create specific action items to address those questions to improve the city at large.
Some of the discussion groups included:
- Creative Economy
- Volunteerism / Empowerment
- Historic Preservation
- Value of grown
- Business Development / Incentives for Businesses to locate in Fayetteville
- Physical / Natural Resources
- Green Economy
- Local Food
At the end of the day, each group presented their action items and many pledged their time and effort to take responsibility for and carry out their ideas.
Next steps: Lioneld Jordan’s Chief of Staff Don Marr will be charged with leading city employees to compile the findings of the Fayetteville Forward summit and analyze them. Mayor Jordan plans to create an advisory committee and an action plan for the city which should be completed in the next few months. Jordan will take the plan to ward meetings and town hall events to explain the next steps.
It was an emotional day for many at the summit. Several people, including the mayor himself were overwhelmed by the community support for a project that many believed could not work.
“They said ‘No one will turn out for something like that. Fayetteville will not show up'” Jordan told those in attendance. “But I believed they were wrong, and you proved them wrong today because you did show up.”
The mayor told the crowd that just because the summit was ending did not mean that their participation would no longer be required. “This is not a ‘me’ government. It’s a ‘we’ government. Together, we are going to take this city to the next level; higher than it’s ever been.
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