In 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched two Rural Heritage Development Initiative (RHDI) pilot programs—one in central Kentucky, the other in the Arkansas Delta. The intent was to deliver strategic heritage-based services and resources to these rural regions in the hopes of building the local capacity to understand, use, and promote heritage and preservation-based tools. Each pilot program launched numerous projects and programs to achieve the goals of the National Trust and local partners and stakeholders. Among these programs were efforts to develop and promote heritage tourism, support and expand local business development, preserve key buildings and landscapes, brand and market the regions, and educate and advocate for preservation strategies and tools.
One of the most successful programs of the Arkansas Delta’s RHDI is the Arkansas DeltaMade branding and entrepreneurial assistance program, www.arkansasdeltamade.com. Arkansas DeltaMade began in 2007 with 23 members and several key partners in the region. With a mission to both brand and promote the unique local businesses in the Arkansas Delta and provide targeted technical assistance to help sustain and grow those businesses, the program filled a significant need for entrepreneurs and local enterprises. Industry leaders and partners recognized immediately the potential for Arkansas DeltaMade to become a force in small business development and contribute to the overall economic revitalization of communities in the region.
Technical assistance from partners such as alt.Consulting and the Southern Good Faith Fund, plus special events co-hosted by the University of Arkansas Clinton School for Public Service and Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe, combined to set Arkansas DeltaMade on a path to success. The program has been recognized nationally by the Clinton Global Initiative, the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), and the National Main Street Center, among many others. And Arkansas DeltaMade has grown. From 23 members to more than 75 in just a couple of years, demands for the brand and the technical assistance are high and increasing.
With this solid base in place, and facing the sunset of the Rural Heritage Development Initiative at the end of 2012, staff and partners began looking for ways to continue Arkansas DeltaMade. Pitches made to local foundations, state government agencies, and federal funders garnered much interest, but brought little success in raising the funds needed to maintain and expand the program. A business plan was developed which identified immediate and long-term potentials for Arkansas DeltaMade so that it would continue to have a significant impact on the local economy of the rural region.
It was most encouraging, at the eleventh hour, to enter into a conversation with a well-regarded local small business development organization about the future of Arkansas DeltaMade. Today, Arkansas DeltaMade has found a permanent home at alt.Consulting. alt.Consulting has been a leader in small business development and technical assistance delivery for almost 15 years in the Arkansas Delta. As an original partner in the design and creation of Arkansas DeltaMade, alt. Consulting has been involved and committed to the cause from the very beginning stages of the program. alt.Consulting will carry the mission forward and has the desire and resources to continue and expand on the success of Arkansas DeltaMade.
This is welcome news for the RHDI and its partners, who are thrilled to know that Arkansas DeltaMade will continue to grow. While alt.Consulting’s expertise is in small business development, by accepting ownership of Arkansas DeltaMade, the organization is making a commitment to the linkages between small businesses and entrepreneurship, heritage tourism, historic preservation, and community revitalization—the holistic approach championed and practiced by the National Trust’s Rural Heritage Development Initiative.