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Editor's note: Welcome to our new business column, here to provide readers with some historical perspective, breaking news, a peek behind events or additional information about recent news.

What brings together two Little Rock businessmen, a southwest Louisiana developer and a nationally recognized landscape designer?

The impending silver tsunami -- baby boomer retirements -- and the potential profits to be made. And the motivation to build an environment where senior citizens can thrive and contribute to the places they live in.

Plans by a team of Little Rock businessmen to invest $32 million to develop a new style of senior-citizen living has caught the eye of nationally recognized southwest Louisiana developer Robert Daigle, noted for his visionary approach to family living.

Daigle, managing partner and co-founder of Southern Lifestyle Development, says his 400-home Somerset Park development in Sterlington, La., will integrate well with the senior-living community being built by Little Rock developers Rodney Thomason and Jimmy Moses alongside noted landscape developer P. Allen Smith.

Families in Somerset Park will welcome their new neighbors. "We are very excited to have the interaction between the two developments," Daigle said.

Southern Lifestyle's community is adjacent to the 20 acres of the Gardens of Somerset property being developed by the Little Rock team just outside Monroe, La., and about 50 miles south of El Dorado.

The Gardens, which is projected to be completed in the spring of 2021, is designed to give older residents easy access to the surrounding community, allowing them to engage with their neighbors on a regular basis.

"This is about promoting multigenerational connectivity," Smith said of the Gardens of Somerset project, which is a pilot that the developers hope to take to other communities across the nation. "There's a lot of wisdom, a lot of knowledge, a lot of mentoring that would benefit the younger generation with that connectivity."

Southern Lifestyle of Lafayette, La., will draw families to Somerset Park. Those families will share the walking and biking paths and green spaces with their older neighbors in the Gardens development.

Finding that sweet spot for senior living could be extremely profitable as the baby boom continues to boom.

AARP reports that 47 million senior citizens (age 65+) live in the United States today. That number will double to nearly 100 million in 40 years. The average life expectancy now is 78 years.

And those folks are active. About 12% use dating sites. About half use Facebook. One in five reports regular physical activity: walking, swimming, aerobic workouts. Activity prolongs life: the elderly who exercise 30 minutes a day live five years longer.

Look for more interaction between the Little Rock group and Southern Lifestyle down the road. Southern Lifestyle has announced that it will invest $400 million to develop a 500-home, mixed-use community in Flowood, Miss.

Thomason has said the next expansion for the Little Rock team will be in Flowood, Miss. -- perhaps beginning as early as next year.

Coincidence? Not likely.


Two Arkansas companies are moving on up.

Allegra Marketing Print Mail of Little Rock ranks among the nation's top 100 quick and small commercial printers. The company leaped the competition, jumping from 85th to 43rd in a list compiled by industry publication Printing News.

The rankings are based on maintaining high operational standards and sales volume. "We appreciate the importance of getting a project done right and appreciate every opportunity the community has [given] us to be their trusted partner," said Lisa Buehler, who owns the company along with her husband, Darwin.

Allegra operates on West 65th Street and provides full-service printing and marketing communications services.

Arvest Equipment Finance, a division of Arvest Bank, moved one spot to 83rd from 84th in a ranking of the largest equipment finance/leasing companies in the U.S. Industry publication MonitorDaily conducts the survey. In 2018, the company made $310.1 million in loans and leases, an increase of nearly 25% from the previous year.

The Arvest division also climbed from 89th to 82nd in overall annual production. President Eric Bunnell attributed the improvement to a 51% increase in new business volume.

Bunnell noted the company is pushing to expand even more. "As we continue to grow, we are expanding our calling efforts to new dealer relationships outside the Arvest footprint," Bunnell said.


The BankOn Arkansas + coalition gained an important partner recently when Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott signed up to make the city's 2,500 employees eligible for the coalition's services.

The coalition, which has nine financial institutions that serve some of the state's neediest residents, wouldn't be in place today without the vision and support of Southern Bancorp.

And Southern Bancorp wouldn't be in place without the backing of business and political visionaries such as President Bill Clinton, Rob Walton and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. They were joined by Little Rock businessman Mack McLarty as partners to form Southern Development Bank Corp. more than 30 years ago. Today, it's called Southern Bancorp and has $1.4 billion in assets, more than 65,000 customers and 47 locations in underserved markets.

Meeting the needs of underserved residents is behind the current push of BankOn Arkansas, which was started after Southern Bancorp Chief Executive Officer Darrin Williams attended a conference in San Francisco where the approach began.

"I was really struck with the idea of bringing this to Little Rock," Williams said.

The service began in November 2018 and is the nation's only BankOn operation to serve customers statewide.

The nine BankOn financial institutions provide debit cards to low- to moderate-income Arkansans who either don't have banks or don't fully utilize the banks they have. BankOn does not charge customers to have an account, and it does not assess overdraft charges, which often surprise users not aware of banking customs.

Statistics from the FDIC show that nearly one in five Arkansans is underbanked -- meaning they still stray to use predatory or outside services -- and 7% have no bank at all.

Southern Bancorp was founded as a rural-development bank, that is, the intent was not to focus on traditional banking functions but to provide programs and financial services that would invest in and build Delta communities.

BankOn and its partnership with Little Rock looks like a natural extension of Southern Bancorp's founding principles.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at or at (501) 378-3567.

SundayMonday Business on 09/15/2019

Print Headline: New style of senior living aim of LR businessmen's $32M investment


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