Hot Springs development group launches new image

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published December 20, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 19, 2012 at 11:10 a.m.
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— A new website is the centerpiece of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership’s new campaign to attract new business and jobs to the region.

The Partnership, previously known as the Garland County Economic Development Corp., unveiled its new website, www.Growhotsprings.com, on Dec. 13 and officially announced the organization’s new name and campaign.

The Partnership began a capital campaign in September 2011 for funds to aid economic development in what the organization’s leaders said were ways not seen before in the community.

In June 2012, in a special meeting, the Partnership members outlined the new program that focuses on redevelopment of downtown Hot Springs and the creation of new high-paying jobs that would attract young, talented people to the region.

In the latest meeting, Dan Gooch, chairman of the Partnership and president of Arvest Bank in Hot Springs, said the organization helps economic-development efforts cross county lines.

“If something goes good in Arkadelphia or Malvern, in the end, it is also good for Hot Springs, because the people those projects would attract will spend money and live here,” he said. “If something goes good here, it’s good for those cities, too.”

Shawnee Carrier, president and CEO of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance, said many of the development efforts made by the two cities overlap.

“The Partnership might have a project that does not exactly ‘fit’ for them then they know we have a piece of property that would work and we work together,” Carrier said. “We are both in the loop together to find that perfect fit. All the new jobs will be from our combined labor shed.”

Carrier, who has been away from the office for maternity leave, said Kay Brockwell of the Partnership’s office in Hot Springs has been handling contact for some of her Clark County economic-development possibilities.

The Partnership is a public-private effort to improve the economy in Garland, Hot Spring, Clark, Pike and Montgomery counties.

The name change was a marketing decision, Gooch said.

“As we traveled and spoke with site selectors and businesses outside of Arkansas, we learned that the majority had heard of Hot Springs,” he said. “When you are looking for destinations for vacation or business travel, normally you don’t know the county’s name, just the cities.”

The website created for the Partnership was the first Internet presence dedicated to economic development in Garland County.

“The organization is 57 years old, but this is our first online website,” said Amanda Bryant, communication director of the Partnership, who helped develop the website. “The (Greater Hot Springs ) Chamber of Commerce had a website with a page for economic development, but this website is an exciting next step.”

While the site is designed to market the region to those outside Arkansas, Bryant said the site will be an asset to businesses, organizations and residents in the region. It is filled with data such as market profiles, demographics and available sites for new businesses.

“The ability to update the information we share on our site is a great advantage,” Gooch said. “At any point, we can instantaneously make a change to reflect what is going on in the Greater Hot Springs region’s economic growth. It is also a way to keep our investors and the community updated on the progress of our strategic plan.”

That plan was unveiled in June when Jon Roberts of TIP Strategies, a development consultant firm contracted by the Partnership, told members of the Partnership that the region’s economy is stronger than across most of the remainder of the state, making growth a challenge for the future.

“A community in crisis will look at anything to make things better, but when making some small strides, new ideas are questioned,” he said in the June meeting. “In this campaign, our biggest problem is that ‘good’ enough isn’t good enough for tomorrow.”

Roberts outlined the strategic plan as focusing on creating new types of businesses for the community.

“Little software companies with only three or four people could double in a few years and then double again,” he said. “Those types of businesses have not been on the city’s radar, but that is economic development.”

The city has only a small window of opportunity to attract news business into the unique buildings now available in the downtown, Roberts said. When they fall into disrepair, it will be too expensive to bring those sites back to viability.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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