Three community leaders from Elkins were part of about 200 participants at the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., at the beginning of August.
Mayor Troy Reed was joined by Elkins Community Network President Jamie Smith and ECN Board Member Ezequiel Tovar for year one of the three-year program. This was the 37th annual CDI program, according to program officials. All three were part of the CDI Pipeline Program, which was sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation. The Pipeline program invited up to 25 qualifying community leaders to participate in the three-year program through the Foundation. All the Pipeline participants were from Benton or Washington counties.
“One thing has stuck with me since I heard one of the teachers say this: ‘Economic development cannot take your city to a new level on its own,’” Reed said.
Smith said she found the ideas of community development and economic development as both separate but correlating concepts interesting.
“The two concepts work together, but there is an element of deciding which needs to be the immediate focus to make both concepts successful in your town,” she said. “I also appreciated the networking opportunities with leaders from across the state. So many of us are working toward similar goals in our communities.”
Tovar also commented on the correlation between community and economic development.
“For me what stood out was community development is parallel to economic development,” he said.
CDI trains community leaders and economic development professionals on how to strengthen their local economies and build communities. This is achieved by developing the ability of participants to identify community assets, set goals, encourage collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders, and bring communities, organizations, and businesses together to respond to a broad range of economic and quality of life issues.
The complete CDI experience is a three-year program with one week of training per year. Participants move through the program curriculum in cohorts and are exposed to a comprehensive, applied approach to the field of community and economic development.
UCA is the birthplace for the Community Development Institute, which started in 1987 in partnership with Entergy, Southwestern Bell, and ARKLA. Since that time, CDIs have been established in Texas, Idaho, Alabama, Illinois, and Delaware. A national governing and certification body, the Community Development Council, has been created.