BOGATA, TX – Often, the work Communities Unlimited performs in one community leads to assistance for another, nearby community.

Such is the case of the community of Bogata, Texas (pronounced “bah-GO-dah,” for those not in the know).

It was CU’s work with the quilt trail project in nearby Clarksville, Texas, that drew the interest of a Bogata resident who had some big ideas for the smaller community.

Bogata lies southwest of Clarksville and has a population of about 1,500. For years, the town thrived in a self-sustained community setting. That is, until about a decade ago, when the local nursing home closed.

The nursing home was a major economic stimulator for the community, providing not only jobs, but also residents in need of local goods and services.

Not long after the nursing home shut its doors, other businesses began to close. While every closure had an impact, one of the largest impacts came from the closure of the town’s lone grocery store. Now, residents must venture about 15 miles out of town to find the nearest grocery store. It was not only an inconvenience for residents, it was a major loss of tax revenue.

One of Bogata’s residents, Lee Williams, saw some of the assistance provided by Communities Unlimited in Clarksville and approached them with ideas for Bogata.

Bogata was a perfect candidate to take part in Community Unlimited’s Community Sustainability Initiative. The initiative uses the BUILD method: Begin the project, Understand the community, Initiate planning, Lead implementation and Develop sustainability. The goal is to guide a community into remaking itself from persistent poverty to sustainable prosperity.

The work in Bogata began with ideas for a solid waste project. Specifically, community leaders wanted to start a recycling program to help reduce their waste stream. They also wanted to find a way to acquire a “one-armed bandit” trash collection vehicle.

While waiting for word on the grant, community leaders found another task for CU — bringing businesses back to downtown.

Communities Unlimited was able to provide a small business loan to the Honey Hush Boutique, which went into a previously vacant building in the heart of Bogata’s downtown. Today, the homegrown business is thriving.

But the community leaders of Bogata didn’t want to stop there. They also wanted a grocery store returned to their town.

A management consultant from Communities Unlimited began working with community led steering committee to discuss opening a cooperative grocery store. The process began with a feasibility study conducted by Communities Unlimited and presented to the Bogata steering committee.

The steering committee was able to review the feasibility study and determine that they should move forward with the project, starting with preparing a strategy for raising the capital needed.

The grocery store and small business loans are just two of the ways Bogata is working to stimulate its local economy with assistance from Communities Unlimited. After seeing the possibilities for the town’s future, they decided to apply for a grant that would take their sustainability plans even further.

Thanks to a Rural Community Development Initiative Grant through USDA-RD, Bogata will receive three years of technical assistance training through Communities Unlimited to used on economic development, GIS mapping and assistance to local businesses.

Communities Unlimited is currently working with Bogata officials to bring a grocery store or a farmer’s market to the town. The project is a perfect fit for CU’s Healthy Foods program, which links farmers and agricultural centers with communities in need of a source of fresh food.

Bogata is a perfect example of how the facilitation of one project can grow into a multi-faceted approach to improving a community through economic, environmental and sustainability approaches. Though the projects may seem separate on the surface, they actually share an overall goal of improving the sustainability of the community.