Divide and conquer


Northwest Arkansas has been a wonderful place for us to raise our family. My husband grew up here and we love that we have been able to farm and build small businesses in the area. We have a large family. With several children, we often find ourselves going multiple directions and thrive in the mode of “divide and conquer.”

Our oldest daughter had the opportunity to participate with the Fayetteville High School Bulldog television team in the Student TV Network conference on Long Beach, Calif. in early March. We were excited about this opportunity, but it overlapped with all our school-aged children’s spring break vacation. We saw this as a chance to let her spread her wings.

Meanwhile, I looked closer at our calendar, and I had a commitment to travel to northeast Arkansas with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension’s leadership program, LeadAR. When we divide and conquer, we always make it work.

I was blown away in the economic and community development seminar in Newport. We were welcomed by the Newport Economic Development Commission. We enjoyed hearing from the Jackson County judge, the Newport mayor and the chamber of commerce. I am not exaggerating when I say their community and businesses rolled out the red carpet for LeadAR class 20.

We heard from guest speakers from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority, the Delta Center for Economic Development, the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. Each speaker had a common theme, showing us how to utilize the resources from their organizations to aid in our own rural community and economic business development. It was one of the best learning experiences our cohort has had regarding this subject.

We were able to tour Granges America, a thriving rolled foil business located in Newport. We also had wonderful discussions with the Christ Academy principal and the chancellor of Arkansas State University-Newport on how to connect students with their communities – to want to live, work and play in rural Arkansas.

Our second day of seminars included more guest speakers from the Clinton School of Public Service, an educational opportunities panel, a federal and state development resources panel and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. We talked about the importance of utility partners to bring new businesses to rural communities. We thoroughly enjoyed a bus tour of downtown Newport and the surrounding community. From Riceland Foods to a crypto mining operation, this northeast Arkansas community has got it going on!

The biggest takeaway for me was how invested each organization is in the development of the local economy and the people who live in their community. It was a great picture of how several entities of business and government work together with a common goal of making the local community thrive. I left very impressed.

By the time I hopped in my car that afternoon I was on the road to meet part of my family to head to Colorado for a ski getaway. Our daughter and one of her friends flew from their conference to meet us. It took some patience and coordinating but we have been blessed with a great family vacation. Whether it’s Newport or a busy family, teamwork makes the dream work, neighbor.

Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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