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Celebrating Retail, Accommodations, Tourism and Entertainment by Building Rural Innovations and Developing Growth Economies (CREATE BRIDGES) is an exciting, new, 2-year program for multi-county regions to develop their retail and hospitality industries. Oklahoma is fortunate to be one of 3 states to participate in the pilot of this program. The project brings an innovative approach to addressing business and workforce development at no cost to the region, thanks to a Walmart grant to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

 

 

Create Bridges Regions

 

Sandstone Hills

The Sandstone Hills region, comprised of Osage, Pawnee and Creek Counties, is located in the western part of northeastern Oklahoma. It is the home of the Osage, Pawnee, and Muscogee (Creek) Nations, as well as the Otoe and Euche tribes. Located along the northern border of the region are the flint hills in Osage County and the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve.

 

The famous Route 66 runs along the southern border of Sandstone Hills region in Creek County and located along the western border is Pawnee, home of the Pawnee Nation and the Pawnee Bill Museum.  Pawnee is known as the town where the West remains.  The city of Cleveland in Pawnee County is located at the intersection of State Highways 99 and 64 in the middle of the eastern border of the region and is bordered on three sides by the Arkansas River that provides great hunting, fishing, hiking and foraging opportunities, as well as personal watercraft recreation.

 

The sparse population in many of the towns located within the Sandstone Hills region and the distance lying between presents the opportunity for the larger towns to work together to identify the resources available in the region based upon the premise that every town has a story that need to be told.

 

Crossing Borders

The Crossing Borders region, Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Mayes and Sequoyah Counties make up a large rural region that is in the heart of the Cherokee Nation. The region has a large retail and tourism industry that relies heavily on cultural diversity and natural resources.

 

This region has a history of communication and information sharing. These counties constitute the origins of the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance (NORA). NORA's expansion throughout rural northeast Oklahoma helped to focus attention on issues shared by this region.

 

Many of the communities and municipalities within the region are centered on tourism, through close proximity to natural resources like rivers and lakes. The region is surrounded by four lakes and has a major river that offers large tourism opportunities.

 

Selected regions are expected to participate by:

  • Form a Regional Steering Committee with representation from each of the CREATE BRIDGES targeted business sectors, state/local workforce agencies, chambers of commerce, economic development, education, and local government.
  • Conduct an Inventory of CREATE businesses and existing training programs in your region that can support these businesses.
  • Host a Retail Academy to increase understanding of the interdependence of CREATE BRIDGES sectors and the rest of the economy, begin exploring workforce and other challenges shared between these businesses and the rest of the economy, and build support for the initiative.
  • Facilitate collaboration of existing efforts that can help strengthen CREATE businesses.
  • Implement a Business Retention and Expansion Program to survey local CREATE businesses, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the business environment, and set priorities for action to help these businesses thrive and grow.
  • Develop and implement new strategies and actions to strengthen the CREATE business sector in your region

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