Arkansas Division of Rural Services
What became the Arkansas Division of Rural Services under Act 910 of 2019 was created “to serve as a single point of contact for all organizations and individuals with a desire to enhance the quality of life” for the state’s rural citizens.” To that end, the agency provides grants to facilitate improvements in rural communities, funds research on solutions to problems faced by such communities, and conducts information sharing through a variety of regional forums and the annual Arkansas Rural Development Conference.
ADRS was created as the Office of Rural Advocacy (ORA) by Act 302 of 1991, which noted that, until that time, “no state office has been specifically created to promote, harmonize, or assist efforts to address the unique needs, conditions, and strengths of rural areas of the state.” The act established ORA to “serve as a single contact point for rural governments, service providers, state and federal agencies, and for individuals interested in rural policies and programs of the state.” Alongside ORA was created the Arkansas Rural Development Commission (ARDC), consisting of seven gubernatorial appointees and four members of the Arkansas General Assembly (all from rural areas of the state), to “serve as the focal point for generating rural development policy initiatives for the state.” The commission sets the long-term goals of the agency and chooses the communities that will receive grant monies. In 1999, ORA was renamed the Arkansas Department of Rural Services following the passage of Act 935. In 2015, as part of Act 8 of the First Extraordinary Session, it merged with the AEDC, becoming the Rural Services Division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Act 910 of 2019 placed the Arkansas Economic Development Commission under the umbrella entity of the Department of Commerce.
The division focuses upon such issues as rural fire protection, agriculture, community facilities, economic development, education, and land use. In addition, the agency works to inform rural Arkansans about available funding programs and administers a variety of grant programs: the Rural Development Community Grant Program, which provides matching funds for renovations, new construction, or equipment purchases for public buildings; the Rural Fire Protection Grant Program, which provides matching funds for the purchase and renovation/rehabilitation of facilities and equipment; the Rural Services Block Grant Program, which provides nine-to-one matching funds for the construction and renovation of community centers and fire stations, as well as the purchase of emergency equipment; and the County Fair Building Grant Program, which provides matching funds for the construction or renovation of a county fair building. In May 2000, the agency teamed with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Missouri, to publish the Arkansas Community Resource Guide, providing information about the variety of governmental agencies, non-profit foundations, and other organizations that provide assistance for community development projects. The agency also publishes a quarterly newsletter, Rural Advocate.
For additional information:
Arkansas Division of Rural Services. https://www.arkansasedc.com/Rural-Services (accessed November 18, 2019).
Greene, Sara. “Residents Show up at Capitol to Get Community Grants.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. River Valley Ozark section. March 6, 2008.
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 11/18/2019