The FRIENDS Board of Directors held its monthly meeting on May 21, at the UA Cossatot De Queen campus. In attendance were: President Mike Branson, Vice President Greg Revels, Secretary/Treasurer Jay Bunyard, Angie Walker, Dr. Steve Cole, Jimmy Bristow, Sevier County Judge Greg Ray, De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown, and Tiffany Maurer. 

Virtual attendees from AEDI (Arkansas Economic Development Institute) included Jim Younquist, Mike Collins, Lamar Hoy, Logan Benson, Amber Berg, and Kevin Koonce.

The board began the meeting by approving the April 16 meeting minutes and recognizing new members: ARZAC Marketing and Tres Agaves.

The board met virtually with the team at AEDI to discuss a partnership to create a county-specific Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Sevier County. This will be the official project for FRIENDS throughout the remainder of 2021. 

The process will involve community surveys, team involvement, and data collection over the next six months or so. Some data collected from 2018 community meetings will be used along with new data collected to create a holistic strategic plan for the county’s economic development. Community involvement and support will make the project successful.

The board then voted to approve the expense for providing a one-day hospitality training for Sevier County’s hospitality business owners at no cost to them. Economic Development Director, Tiffany Maurer will be arranging the event and contacting several businesses to invite them to the event. 

Responses to the hotel feasibility study RFP sent out last month were reviewed. The board voted to table the discussion until the June meeting after the hospitality training is offered to gauge possibilities that come out of the training session.

FRIENDS has signed on as the first business in Sevier County recognizing the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) through the ACT Work Ready Communities website. Sevier County businesses now recognizing the NCRC also include Randy Walker Family Clinic, Simple Simon’s Pizza, AHW, L.L.C., and KDQN.

For more information about the upcoming hospitality training, ACT Work Ready Communities, or questions about becoming a member of FRIENDS, contact Tiffany Maurer at 870-584-1184 or email

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