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Fred PhillipsPublished April 1, 2012 at 2:24 a.m.
TRI-LAKES AREA Though he moved to Arkadelphia to work as an engineer, Fred Phillips’ lifelong passion for athletics inspired him to start his own sports consulting business.
“I wanted to paint my own canvas,” Phillips said in his Arkadelphia home office. “I didn’t want to have the edges of my canvas determined by someone else.”
Phillips owns DLT Events, which coordinates such endurance sports as triathlons, cycling, running and adventure racing. The New York-state native said he developed an interest in those activities at an early age.
“I’ve been involved in athletics all my life,” Phillips said. “I wrestled and skied throughout high school and college. I ended up doing cycling to help augment my leg strength and cardio in the off seasons. I competed in a couple of Iron Man triathlons, and I can’t tell you how many races over the years - more than I could shake a stick at.”
Participating in the triathlons “is a test of personal will,” Phillips said.
Phillips was born in 1959 in Lockport, N.Y., but grew up in Newfane, N.Y., “five or six miles off Lake Ontario.” His father worked in the construction and fabrication industry, and his mother was an accountant. No one in his family was much of an athlete, but he said he found he had a passion for all types of racing.
He graduated from Newfane High School in 1977 and received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
“I originally wanted to go into law enforcement,” Phillips said. “I went to school for it. Then all of the various twists and turns revealed that was not what I wanted. I had a propensity for math and science.”
His first job out of college was with a subsidiary of General Motors in Buffalo, as a test engineer. Then he went to work for Joy Manufacturing, also in Buffalo, as a quality engineer.
“Joy was bought out by Cooper Industries, and after eight years, I came out as a service manufacturing engineer,” he said.
Phillips earned a master’s degree in engineering, then put his name “in the hat with a head hunter.” In that fashion, he went to work for Carrier Corp. in Arkadelphia.
“My family and I moved here in October 1994,” Phillips said. “I was with the second wave of engineers coming in. About 10 months later, Carrier made the transition to Scroll Technologies.”
His wife, Rose, started her own accounting business in Arkadelphia, and the couple enrolled their daughters, Abby and Becca, in the local schools.
Moving from Buffalo, N.Y., to Arkadelphia created some culture shock for the family.
“The job was just as fast-paced,” Phillips said. “Business is business. The community just moved at a different pace. It’s more relaxed here, but I adapt pretty quickly.”
He stayed with Scroll through 1999.
“Then I tendered my resignation,” he said. “I wanted to build something on my own.”
He said he’d been competing for years in races and triathlons, “but there were not a lot of those in the state back then. There were only one or two triathlons, so I had to travel a lot. I always thought that with DeGray Lake in our backyard, we had a beautiful venue right here.”
In 1997, he conceived the idea of a business centered around racing and triathlons. In 1998, Phillips launched the DeGray Lake Sprint Triathlon. As it does today, the event featured a 500-yard swim, a 14-mile bike race and a three-mile run.
“Our first year, we had 100 competitors come out to the Spillway,” Phillips said. “People enjoyed it, they liked the venue, and I was like, ‘OK.’”
The success of the first triathlon led Phillips to launch DLT Events, which produces sports events across the state and owns several other triathlons and races. One event produced by DLT is the Big Dam Bridge 100, which is scheduled for Sept. 29.
“Last year, we had 2,350 participants. It is a 100-mile cycling tour of central Arkansas, essentially,” Phillips said.
Coordinating a sporting event, he said, “is like herding cats.”
For the Big Dam Bridge 100, Phillips said, countless details must be worked out with numerous agencies.
“We will control well over 100 miles of road,” he said. “That means working with law enforcement and dealing with the logistics of equipment, multiple fire and EMS districts, and dealing with road construction. Signage and aid stations have to be coordinated. When you break it down into pieces, it’s like eating an elephant - you have to do it one bite at a time.”
He said one of the most important “pieces” in his business is economics.
“The sports industry is a green industry,” he said. “We attract people from all over the country. That creates a lot of heads on beds and puts dollars into a community.”
Event participants spend money at local motels, restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, Phillips said, and after they leave, that money stays in the community.
Sporting events create memories, he said.
“We create opportunities for people to challenge themselves,” he said, “and when they do that, they remember the locale, the venue. When you highlight the iconic features of an area, that helps them align the memory with the place. For a lot of people, it is an introductory experience to a new area.”
When people have a positive memory, they tend to want to come back, he said.
“It could give a decision-maker the impetus for bringing the next convention to your community,” he said.
Phillips said Arkadelphia and Clark County are still building toward realizing their full potential as a hot spot for tourism.
“We are a premium location still working to meet its potential,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity here.”
Phillips, who co-chairs the tourism subcommittee of the Clark County Strategic Plan, said communities that focus on health and fitness benefit in other areas.
“They grow faster,” he said, “because they offer a good quality of life. If you have a healthy population coupled with a good, educated workforce and the infrastructure to support health and fitness - that is an asset.”
Staff writer Daniel A. Marsh can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
getting to know Fred Phillips Birth place: Lockport, N.Y.
Birth date: Oct. 28, 1959 Family: Wife, Rose; and two daughters, Abby and Becca Biggest influence: Phillip Mitchell, my pastor when I was 19 to 25 years old Hobbies: Mountain-bike racing and riding Favorite author: Dale Carnegie When you were growing up, you said you wanted to be: A police detective Something that is on your bucket list: Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane - with a parachute, of course Something that most people don’t know about you: I enjoy thought-provoking conversation. Some may call this debate.
None DANIEL MARSH can be reached at .