TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — As the economic development coordinator for Sevier County, Arkansas, Lisa J. Taylor of De Queen uses an African proverb to explain her aggressiveness and goals.

The proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

The Texarkana Gazette reports that she also believes in the saying, "It takes a village to improve a community."

"I have been out talking to people, pounding the pavement, so to speak. I started out going to meetings around town: City Council, Industrial Park Board, Rotary and others. From there, I have expanded my listening area to include major employers, school personnel, police and fire department members, business owners/managers and just the random 'guy on the street.' I'll listen to anyone, anywhere in the county," Taylor said.

"People have been very open with me about what they feel our county needs. Most importantly, I have been trying to find out from local businesses whether they are happy in Sevier County and what their future plans entail. This is all important information because we first must grow our local economy and grow and retain our businesses before we branch out to recruit new businesses to our area," she said.

"During these initial discussions, people have expressed their concerns about everything from the housing shortage to the need to shop local," Taylor said

"Our county has many assets that few people know about, and it appears that many of our challenges come from perception," she said.

"In the coming months, members of our county will have opportunity to participate in community listening sessions during which open dialogue will take place about our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. These listening sessions will provide guidance from our community members as we develop a local plan for economic development. Included in this plan will be potential action steps needed to recruit new business, such as those needed to supply businesses currently located within our region.

"Once written, our comprehensive economic development plan will be implemented to the fullest extent," Taylor said.

"Along for the ride to assist in our efforts will be the Southwest Arkansas Planning & Development District, as we will draw information from their recently updated economic development plan in order to leverage our assets with those of other communities. Working alongside SWAPDD and the other 11 members of the District will ensure that Sevier County has a spot in this team effort to bring economic growth to the Southwest Arkansas region.

"It is my intention to encourage open dialogue between local stakeholders to overcome our challenges. Bottom line is that we all must come together to achieve economic prosperity," she said.

The new position is the product of collaboration between the University of Arkansas Cossatot, Rural Development Authority of Sevier County, the Sevier County Judge's Office and the Sevier County Industrial Board.

Taylor has worked during the past 18 years to improve the quality of life through economic development for small towns.

Taylor served seven years as executive director for the Pushmataha County Chamber of Commerce. She supervised the Antler's Main Street program and was able to develop and restore their downtown to historical integrity.

"While every single person in Sevier County plays a part in helping the county grow, Lisa provides us that one focal point through which everything that pertains to economic development can hopefully flow, and for our county, this is a first," said UA Cossatot Chancellor Steve Cole.


Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com