The Hot Springs Metro Partnership, Hot Springs Area Community Foundation and Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic were recognized by the Southern Economic Development Council for their community responsiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These annual awards recognize and showcase the leading communication and marketing work done by economic development professionals throughout the south. Hot Springs Metro Partnership hit the mark this year with this communication piece. Its entry in the Thinking Outside the Box category titled, Support Spa City, won a Special Judges Award for COVID-19 Community Responsiveness. This piece not only showed creativity, but also solid messaging and effectiveness at reaching their target audience. We were wowed by all the entries we received this year and were impressed with the high level of marketing work being done in economic development by SEDC members,” said SEDC president, Gene Stinson, after the ceremony.
SEDC is a group that spans 17 southern states. The award was presented virtually during the SEDC’s annual conference on Monday, Aug. 17th for community responsiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was one of only four awards given out during the conference, and the only one awarded for COVID-19 responsiveness.
“We appreciate the partnership we had with CCMC and the Hot Springs Area Community Foundation in providing this program for our local businesses and displaced workers during the scariest part of COVID, the early onset when there were virtually no facts out there and our business owners and furloughed workers had no idea what to expect from one day to the next,” said Gary Troutman, President & CEO of the HSMP. “This money kept some in business and provided meals to families during some of their most challenging times.”
“Major kudos to Cole McCaskill for the inspiration to create SupportSpaCity.com and to Mara Kuhn for building it out with an assist from Cole and Lisa Engebretson. They are very valued members of our team here at the Hot Springs Metro Partnership and Chamber. The site wound up generating $81,000+ in commerce to 98 local businesses and over 300 displaced workers at a time they needed it most,” he said.
“It is a tremendous honor for Hot Springs and Garland County to be recognized on a national level from SEDC. We will continue to do our best to help businesses and workers as we all navigate the unchartered waters of the COVID virus,” Troutman said.
#SupportSpaCity was a campaign for a buy-one, give-one community relief program. The initiative was designed to quickly get cash in the hands of local small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and to give grocery relief to those individuals who experienced a loss or reduction of employment due to the health crisis.
Judges for the SEDC Communication Awards competition are economic development consultants, communication, and design professionals from across the southern United States who work with clients in developing strategies for growth in their communities. SEDC chose these judges because of their knowledge of the economic development process, the development of marketing content, and graphic design. They understand the needs businesses have in choosing a site and how communities and economic development organizations can reach prospective clients through their marketing efforts.
The mission of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership is to create economic opportunity throughout the Hot Springs Region.
(Hot Springs, AR) July 27, 2020 – The Hot Springs Metro Partnership held its annual meeting and economic development awards virtually this year. The event, sponsored by CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, can be viewed here.
The HSMP holds its annual meeting and awards ceremony every year to thank its investors and inform them of the progress the Partnership made the previous year. The event honors those who worked tirelessly throughout the previous year to help provide Hot Springs and Garland County with an outstanding economic climate by bringing in more jobs and investment in the community.
“What a difference both our deserving winners and worthy nominees made to drive both Hot Springs and Garland County forward in the past year and a half!” said Gary Troutman, President & CEO of the HSMP.
“Though we had to hold the event virtually, that in no way diminishes the many outstanding achievements and accomplishments of our nominees,” stressed Troutman.
The winners are:
Hot Springs Economic Force Award
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort was awarded the Economic Force Award. This award is presented to a vital company in the Hot Springs Metro region.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is a fixture in the local economy. Oaklawn made the single largest investment of the year in 2019 and is creating more jobs at one time than any other single entity. When Oaklawn undertook a $100 million expansion of its casino and the construction of a new 4-star hotel and conference center, it heightened Hot Springs’ position in the national conversation and directly and indirectly spurred millions more in investment and new business activity in the community.
Those also nominated were Radius Aerospace, US Vanadium, Cobalt Aero Services and Ritter Communications.
Economic Development Leadership Award
Vince Signorelli was awarded the Economic Development Leadership Award. This award is presented to an individual who has shown strong leadership in economic development efforts.
Signorelli is an outstanding champion for the community. In 2019, his company continued to bring national attention to Hot Springs by hosting the US National Indoor Pickleball Championships at the Hot Springs Convention Center. His companies Tanners Team Sports and Vulcan Pickleball continue to innovate new products and lead the market in worldwide baseball, pickleball, and other sporting goods sales. He was also recognized in 2019 as he and his company received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Global Trade. Signorelli has also stepped up to serve on the board of directors for the HSMP and has donated his time and resources to help advance our efforts.
Those also nominated were Forrest Spicher, Diane LaFollette, Lesley Nalley and Majestic Ballpark Committee.
Downtown Trailblazer of the Year
Crystal Ridge Distillery was awarded the Downtown Trailblazer Award. This award is presented to an entity who made a significant investment in downtown Hot Springs.
Crystal Ridge is an exciting new business in Hot Springs. They renovated a vacant warehouse building on Broadway and breathed new life into the building and this area of town by opening a craft moonshine distillery, restaurant, bar, and retail store. When the coronavirus struck, they used their distilling resources to pivot into the manufacture of hand sanitizer which has become a Hot Springs staple.
Those also nominated were Splash Wine Bar, The Waters Hotel Rooftop and Hotel Hale.
Historic Preservation Champion
Hotel Hale was named the Historic Preservation Champion. This award is presented to an entity that has shown great care for the preservation of a historic structure.
Already winning the statewide award for Excellence in Preservation, Hotel Hale took a bathhouse in Hot Springs National Park that had been vacant for decades and transformed it into a beautiful new hotel and restaurant. This new addition to downtown has added much needed high-end hotel rooms and a wonderful new dining option to the Hot Springs experience.
Those also nominated were Capone’s Loft, Crystal Ridge Distillery and McGrew Companies.
Trending Upwards Award
Radius Aerospace was awarded the Trending Upwards Award. The award is given to an entity that made a sizeable investment and created new jobs in the community.
Radius Aerospace was the Metro Partnership’s single largest manufacturing expansion project of the year. This company announced a $24 million new investment in Hot Springs coupled with the creation of 65 new jobs. With their origins headquartered in the heart of Hot Springs since 1966, and with locations in 4 other states and the U.K., they are on the leading edge of their industry, building a new titanium forming facility which is the future material for aircraft parts.
Hill & Cox Corporation was presented with the Chairman’s Award. This is a special recognition selected by the Chairman of the Board to recognize someone who has made a positive impact on the community but may not fit into one of our other categories.
Hill & Cox helps to build the community and impacts the skyline more than any other. In 2019 this locally-owned company built projects valued at over $57 million including construction on new buildings for National Park College, Hot Springs School District and CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs. They contracted with over 600 skilled workers on these projects injecting millions back into the local economy through payroll, the purchasing of materials, and having out of town contractors patronize local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
The mission of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership is to create economic opportunity throughout the Hot Springs Region.
For further information, contact Mara Kuhn at 501.321.1700 or email@example.com
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Workforce development is a main initiative of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership (HSMP), and the organization knows developing a strong workforce happens from the ground up. The HSMP is working closely with the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, seven area school districts, and National Park College to help prepare a ready workforce.
Providing children with as many resources as possible to prepare them for a successful professional life after graduating high school is one of the ways the HSMP is serving the Greater Hot Springs area. The Workforce Committee of the HSMP was pleased to see part of this concept come to life this year with Garland County’s first-ever student to earn a concurrent high school diploma and Associate’s Degree.
Mountain Pine High School’s Micah Travis is not only a 2020 Mountain Pine graduate, but also a 2020 National Park College graduate. The 17-year-old worked hard beginning in his sophomore year to earn his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice while he was still in high school.
When asked if he felt he missed out on being a “typical high schooler,” Travis said there might have been a few things he missed, but his gains far outweighed them.
“I might have missed out on one or two social gatherings with friends, but that doesn’t matter because in the end, academics are going to put you further than your friends.”
Travis will begin the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in the fall as a sophomore in college, and is on track to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree at the age of 19. With dreams of being able to help people, Travis hopes to work as an Arkansas State Trooper and is thrilled at the prospect of being able to start as soon as possible.
“Being a trooper means I’ll be able to help people, which is probably the biggest reason I decided to do this,” he said. Travis was inspired by his grandfather, a retired Texas State Trooper. His grandfather’s stories of assisting those in need and his own desires to do the same make him sure becoming a state trooper will be a good fit.
“I just really enjoy making someone’s day better,” he said.
The recent graduate said he wants to return to the Hot Springs area following his time at UAFS.
“I want to be stationed at Troop K, the Arkansas State Police unit that covers this area, because I’ve grown up here most of my life and it’s an area I know really well,” he said. “That is a big part of being a state trooper, you have to know the area where you are assigned.”
Travis said his school counselors approached him at the end of his ninth-grade year and asked him if he would like to go to college during his high school career.
“By then, I already knew about vo-tech, and I thought it would be something along those lines,” he said. He soon discovered that he would, in fact, be taking college classes which would help him settle into college after his high school graduation.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes,’” he said, adding that he found he preferred his college classes over his high school classes.
While taking college classes at NPC, Travis received concurrent credit making the classes also count for his high school requirements. He had the same amount of classes, they were just more demanding.
“It did come with some challenges,” his mother, Leslie Travis, said. “He had to learn how to communicate with professors, which is very different than just running by the high school classroom. His communication skills have improved a great deal.”
Travis said as he began taking concurrent credit, he had other classmates from Mountain Pine join him which helped him adjust to taking classes with college-age classmates. But as those students graduated or stopped participating in the program, he became one of the youngest in his classes.
“At first it was intimidating because I was a lot shorter than I am now, and everyone was a lot taller and older,” he said. He jokingly added, “And in most cases more mature than me…with one or two exceptions.”
He said one intimidating experience he had was in his speech class where he had to present and speak to a group of 20- and 30-year-olds. “I was just this rinky-dink 15-year-old who had no idea what he was doing,” he said.
His mother added that she recalled a few times in his government class where students were required to be at least 18 years old to participate, but added that there were only a few times when his age was an issue.
“National Park was wonderful to work with,” his mother said. “All of his professors realized what position he was in.”
Travis echoed his mother’s thoughts.
“I think they took into account my age, but they also gave me work that was the same as they would give any other student,” he said. He added that several professors gave him a little more grace because they knew he was in a unique situation.
His father, Pat Travis, said he and his wife were amazed at the hard work Travis put in.
“We’re both proud of what he did that last year, because that’s a load—20-30 college hours for a 16- and 17-year-old,” he said. “This last year was just wonderful. We’re proud of him.”
In addition to taking a full college load at NPC, at Mountain Pine Travis was also the school mascot, and was involved in Beta Club and Student Council. His mother said he was still able to stay involved at Mountain Pine just like he had been before he started at NPC.
In order to complete his Associate’s Degree, Travis had to take one summer class at NPC and two online classes through Arkansas Tech University, which he was able to complete in Mountain Pine High School’s computer lab during school hours.
His father said he really appreciates the fact that NPC coordinates with UAFS for an easy transition to his junior year this fall.
Travis noted the educational professionals at both Mountain Pine and NPC were extremely encouraging and helpful during the entire program.
“Ms. Tammy Brown at Mountain Pine really helped me stay on track. She made sure I didn’t stop doing it,” he said, adding that she reiterated that he could go far by achieving this goal. His mother added that Ms. Brown made sure he had everything needed for college. Travis said she was very encouraging and helped him believe he could do it.
“We are very proud of Micah as well,” said Brown, who was Travis’ college and career coach. “From a very young age, he has been a very determined and successful academic student. Having a great support system within his family has allowed him to dream big and accomplish the many goals he had set for himself. Micah's work ethic has led him to this achievement of attaining his Associate's Degree through such sacrifices as attending college classes during the summer over the last couple of years, while also working, instead of lounging at the lake or partaking in other teenage summer activities. It is this work ethic that will allow Micah to be successful in his career in law enforcement.”
When asked if he had any advice for other students interested in pursuing this option, Travis said to simply “do it.”
“If you think you can, if you have even just the slightest ability to do it, go ahead and try,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen is you don’t like it. The best thing that can happen is you get several free college hours and you’re able to complete half your basics.”
Hot Springs, Arkansas – National Park College (NPC) hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Jan. 30th for the newly constructed Marine Technology building.
The College broke ground on the facility in April 2019. The 7,500 square foot metal structure is 60 feet deep and 125 feet in length with four 25 x 60 foot bays. The interior space includes a large shop area, a classroom, office and storage space with room to expand.
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Wade Derden shared that NPC’s Marine Technology program is the only one of its kind in the state and one of only a handful in the region. He praised instructor Delmar Hunter for his efforts to strengthen the program. The program receives a tremendous level of support from industry partners that includes more than $160,000 of in-kind contributions and paths for our students to receive industry certifications with Yamaha, Mercury, BRP, and Suzuki through online training.
Local business and industry has also committed significant resources to the program, including boat and engine donations, and service on the program’s advisory committee, which directs the curriculum of the program. “Local industry leaders like Trader Bills, Ouachita Marine, Bradford Marine, Brooks Marine, Orr Marine, Futrell Marine, Elite Marine, and Mountain Harbor Resorts have committed themselves to the success of this program and helped open up lines of communication to manufacturers. They’ve also helped recruit students, served as expert speakers for our students in their capacity as master technicians and owners, and they have worked with us to develop a robust internship program to help our students integrate into the workplace,” said Derden.
Derden added, “With this facility we dedicate today, we can truly expand the program’s enrollment and better equip our students for a healthy future career. We hope to double the size of this program and add relevant curriculum in the coming years with your continued support.” He announced that NPC would begin hosting Suzuki Factory training in March.
Rick Kesterson, president of Futrell Marine talked about the importance of quality training for the marine industry. “It is a workforce issue and I am glad that it’s at the forefront here at National Park. It’s safe to say that a technical workforce shortage is probably the biggest challenge facing our industry today. During almost every meeting or conference I attend, this discussion is always at the forefront. Finding and retaining great technical help in our industry is not easy. A workforce issue quickly turns into a customer service issue.” Kesterson added, “It’s all about providing our customers with great experiences. All roads lead to us all coming together collectively to get trained qualified personnel out into the marketplace.”
Bill Barnes, president of Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa and the Tri-Penant Family of Resorts said in his 50 years in the marina business there has never been an adequate number of technicians to support the need. “Arkansas has 600,000 acres of lakes and 10,000 miles of rivers and streams. There’s 16,000 registered boats just in a five county area right here, and that doesn’t count all of the stuff that gets trailered in. There is a tremendous need.” He explained how the nature of the work has elevated over the years, “With every graduating class here, you fill a huge void with quality, quality people that are embarking on a wonderful career path. When I was a kid growing up, it was a motor mechanic. These young men and women are technicians. They are absolutely technicians. You look at these engines, and the size and the sophistication, and frankly the cost. They are technicians. They are high quality people charged with keeping an expensive, very elaborate piece of equipment running.”
NPC President, Dr. John Hogan shared the impact the new facility would have on students. “We think about the impact what we are teaching will have on those students, on their families, on their grandchildren and on the generations of our residents. These are the building blocks of our community, and we wake up every day thinking about our students, how we can listen to them, and what we can do to give them an advantage.” He also noted the economic impact the program has on both the tourism and manufacturing sectors. “Students are going to benefit from this program. Generations are going to benefit from this program, so it’s worth the risk. It’s worth the investment and that’s what we want to continue to do.”
National Park College was established in 1973 and is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The College enrolls over 7,500 credit and non-credit students per year. NPC is a comprehensive two-year institution offering associate degrees and certificates as well as continuing education, community services and workforce training.
1. What is your position with Berry Global? How do you serve the company?
My title is Tooling Manager but I also serve as the Manager of the Processing Department. In this role I serve as a technical and plastics resource for the company. It is my responsibility to convert raw plastic pellets into good and usable plastic components.
2. What are Berry Global’s products?
Berry Global has 290 locations on six different continents. In those locations Berry produces plastic products for the food and food service sectors as well as the healthcare, filtration, beauty/personal care, agricultural, building/construction and industrial /transportation sectors. I have heard that when you walk in a grocery store, 25% of the products on the shelf have Berry Global content in some way.
3. What does it mean to work for a company that makes products shipped all over the world?
I love the fact that we ship products all over the world. I take great pride in the fact that we are a global supplier. Every time I hear someone say that America can’t compete in the global manufacturing market, I proudly let them know that we do it every day right here in Arkansas.
4. What advice would you give someone trying to choose a career?
“Find something you love and you will never work a day in your life” may be good advice, but the reality is that you have to be able to make a living in your chosen profession. One strategy would be to talk to people you admire and respect who are in the workforce about options and what they think the future of their industry looks like. The more information you can collect, the better the decision you can make.
5. What is your biggest employment need?
Skilled employees. If it is a job that you can train anyone to do, then you can probably train a robot to do it, and eventually this is the way United States manufacturing will go. This will reduce the need for unskilled laborers but increase the need for people with the knowledge and skills to maintain these systems.
6. Who are you looking for to work at Berry Global?
At a facility like Berry Global we have positions for just about anybody. If you have a work ethic and are able and willing to learn, we have a place for you at Berry Global.
7. Where are you originally from?
A little town in Southwest Missouri named El Dorado Springs.
8. What path led you to Berry Global?
After graduating from high school, I served in the Army for four years, which gave me the discipline and financial means to go to college where I earned a four-year degree in manufacturing. At that time I had no intention or desire to go into plastics manufacturing, but in my first job making automotive water pumps and fuel pumps, I was introduced to the world of plastics and it has been a wonderful career for me ever since.
9. What are your hobbies?
I enjoy all of the outdoor activities that are offered to us in Arkansas, and since I’ve moved to Hot Springs I am finding that I really enjoy horse racing.
10. What is your favorite thing about Hot Springs?
I love Hot Springs, and to me the best thing about Hot Springs is that we get to enjoy some of the culture normally associated with a city but you still get that small town feel.
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) announces that the Hot Springs Metro Partnership has once again been recognized as one of 66 economic development organizations accredited by IEDC as an Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO). It is also the only AEDO within the state of Arkansas. Originally accredited 2016, the HSMP was reaccredited by IEDC following three successful years of activity as an AEDO member.
“The Hot Springs Metro Partnership displays the professionalism, commitment, and technical expertise that is deserving of this honor,” said IEDC President and CEO Jeff Finkle.
“We are extremely honored to be recognized by IEDC and proud to be the only accredited economic development organization in the state of Arkansas, as well as one of only 66 in the entire county. This is a testament to the wonderful teamwork we have locally between the leadership at the City of Hot Springs, Garland County, and our investor partners, as well as our hard-working and conscientious staff here at the Hot Springs Metro Partnership,” said Gary Troutman, HSMP President and CEO.
The AEDO program is a comprehensive peer review process that measures economic development organizations against commonly held standards in the profession. The program consists of two phases: a documentation review and an onsite visit. Each phase is designed to evaluate information about the structure, organization, funding, program, and staff of the candidate economic development organization.
“Additionally we appreciate all of our community and business leaders who helped in the recent three-day site visit by IEDC, and we pledge to them our commitment to tackle the ongoing workforce challenge to help in providing more jobs, more viable candidates, and more opportunities for our community going forward,” Troutman said. “We will also continue to look for retention and growth opportunities for current businesses located here while simultaneously working to recruit new ones to start up, relocate, or add an additional location in Hot Springs and/or Garland County.”
Earning the AEDO accreditation tells the community and prospects that the HSMP attained a measure of excellence assuring that their trust is well placed and their business is in good hands.
Maintenance of the AEDO status is required every three years and is accomplished through documentation submission and/or onsite visits by a team of the AEDO subcommittee.
The International Economic Development Council is the largest membership association serving economic and community development professionals in the world. With over 5,000 members nationwide and abroad, IEDC offers the economic development profession one source for information and professional development, one voice for the profession and one force for advocacy. For more information on IEDC or the AEDO program, please contact AEDO Program Manager Dana Crater at 910-833-7020 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit IEDC’s website at http://www.iedconline.org/AEDO.
The goal of the HSMP is to create economic opportunity throughout the Hot Springs Region.
For further information about the HSMP, contact Mara Kuhn at 501.321.1700 or email@example.com.
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Brandi Hinkle, AEDC Director of Communications
501-519-7382 mobile or firstname.lastname@example.org
HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas (November 25, 2019) – Radius Aerospace, formerly a Triumph Group Division, with its newly established corporate headquarters in Hot Springs, Arkansas, celebrated its Hot Springs’ Division titanium components plant expansion with a ribbon cutting ceremony today. The company plans to hire 65 new employees to support this expansion.
“For more than six months, Arkansas Economic Development Commission has worked closely with Radius Aerospace and regional economic development officials to prepare for this announcement,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. “The strength of our workforce makes Hot Springs an excellent choice for this expansion.”
The company produces complex fabricated metallic assemblies and components used in the military, commercial, business jet, regional jet, general aviation and helicopter markets. Hot Springs’ diversified product list includes aircraft skins, leading edges, doors, covers and ribs.
“We’re excited to expand and modernize our Hot Springs site with this state-of-the-art facility,” said Radius Aerospace Vice President of Supply Chain Darren Hill. “The quality of work our fine employees produce has enabled us to grow and continue to support both the aerospace and defense industry, which is so important to our nation. This expansion is further evidence of our commitment to continued growth and placing a high emphasis on being a good corporate neighbor to our community and stakeholders”
The Hot Springs facility is a technology leader of Super Plastic Forming of Titanium and has seen a significant increase in demand in both the commercial and military aerospace industry for custom configured titanium components. The facility currently employs 385.
“It is with great pleasure that the City of Hot Springs congratulates Radius Aerospace on their expansion and new development plans. Their investment in technology and additional jobs in our community is greatly appreciated, and we wish them much success now and into the future,” said City Manager Bill Burrough.
Mayor Pat McCabe added, “Only through sound business decisions of the past can a company such as Radius Aerospace take advantage of present-day opportunities. Economic growth through business expansion is vital to the area, and this next step by Radius Aerospace is a sign of a bright future for them and our community. The City of Hot Springs congratulates Radius on their expansion and investment in the core of Hot Springs.”
Officials said the expansion project is one of the largest to take place in Hot Springs and Garland County in several years.
“Although new in name, Radius Aerospace has roots in our community dating back to the 1960s as Triumph Group, and we are extremely pleased to see this growth and expansion on their part,” said Hot Springs Metro Partnership President and CEO Gary Troutman. “It is a wonderful harbinger for future continued growth in our community.”
Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney said, “We congratulate Radius Aerospace on their continued growth and development in our vibrant community. Also, we appreciate their commitment to provide jobs and state-of-the-art technology investment for the future.”
About the Arkansas Economic Development Commission
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), a division of the Arkansas Department of Commerce, seeks to create economic opportunity by attracting higher-paying jobs, expanding and diversifying local economies in the state, increasing incomes and investment, and generating positive growth throughout The Natural State. Arkansas is a pro-business environment operating leaner, faster and more focused through a streamlined state government designed to act on corporate interests quickly and decisively. For more information, visit www.ArkansasEDC.com.
This press release and others can be found online at www.ArkansasEDC.com/news-events/newsroom.
In a span of 30 days, the ACTI Committee will have spoken to at least four local civic and government agencies about the importance of preserving the main building on the campus of the former Arkansas Career Training Institute.
The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce committee was formed to promote the safe and secure closing and possible repurposing of the main building on the campus after ACTI announced its closure in May. The main building was built in the early 1930s as part of the Army-Navy Hospital.
The ACTI Committee presented to the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotions Commission on Oct. 28th, Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club on Oct. 30th, and the City of Hot Springs Board of Directors on Nov. 5th, and will present to the Garland County Quorum Court on Nov. 25th. The committee also intends to present to the Oaklawn Rotary Club in the near future.
The goal of the committee is to gain grassroots support and encourage local leaders and citizens alike to contact their congressmen on the importance of protecting the integrity of the area. The committee hopes to gain the support of the community and its leaders to prevent potential negative effects to the historic Downtown Hot Springs area and Hot Springs National Park.
The closure of the facility leaves several large vacant buildings that, if not handled correctly, can pose a public safety risk, including vandalism, homeless occupancy, environmental issues and potential fires that could spread to the mountains in Hot Springs National Park. A main concern to the committee is the risk of possible harm to the thermal springs and Hot Springs National Park, a major draw for tourism, which is a main economic driver in the area. If not handled properly the closure could pose a long-term major detriment for the downtown area and the national park.
The committee’s presentations show the importance of developing a comprehensive plan for the closure to prevent a disaster such as the Majestic Hotel fire in 2014.
In order for the plan to be a success, it needs the help of leaders in Washington, D.C. The committee is asking for support from U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman in seven areas: expediting registration of the site as a brownfield environmental site, if environmental problems are found; obtaining federal funding for basic security and maintenance after June 30, 2020; securing the property with fencing; assigning national park police to assume security after June 30, 2020, when the private security is no longer used; demolishing many of the 30 outbuildings on the site; providing a clear chain of command for management of the property; and encouraging repurposing of the facility. However, if repurposing is not possible after several years, demolishing the complex and returning the land to be a part of the national park in order to protect the thermal springs.
The Hot Springs Metro Partnership President and CEO Gary Troutman and Economic Development Manager Michelle Ratcliff, along with Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club volunteers, recently taught the CHOICES program in Terri Crain’s 8th-grade classes at Lake Hamilton Junior High School.
The program was sponsored locally by Regions Bank and emphasizes the importance of staying in school and how the ramifications of decisions that young people make affect them for years to come, both good and bad.
The mission of the CHOICES program is to “empower young people with the skills, knowledge, and participatory habits to be engaged citizens who are capable of addressing international and public policy issues through thoughtful public discourse and informed decision making.”
The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Hot Springs Metro Partnership brought their annual benchmarking trip home this year by bringing in a community building expert.
The Chamber and Partnership hosted Quint Studer the author of “Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change is Reshaping America” and founder of Pensacola, Florida’s Studer Community Institute and its Center for Civic Engagement.
Studer believes vibrant communities don’t just happen—they are built in a smart and organic way. Pensacola faced similar challenges to Hot Springs in that its young people were leaving and not coming back as well as challenges with its downtown. Today much has changed and Pensacola is now thriving.
During the Reverse Benchmark, presented by CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, Studer evaluated Hot Springs through surveying and visiting with key community stakeholders. Studer said for the most part the community of Hot Springs is doing well. However, he said doing well can be a stumbling block.
“Sometimes when we start getting good, we want to claim victory,” he said, adding that Hot Springs can go from “good to great” by focusing its efforts on two areas.
Two challenges the Hot Springs area faces are a stagnant population and making the right choices with how to develop the former Majestic Hotel site.
“If you look at cities that are thriving, they keep their talent at home,” he said in reference to targeting the 25- to 35-year-old population. “If you want to create a great community, you’ve got to create a great place where young people can fulfill their potential.”
Studer said the downtown area is close to being a vibrant community, noting it has great retail and office space. However, he said Downtown Hot Springs has a gap in residential opportunities. One key way to attract young people is to have downtown living.
In Pensacola the average an available housing unit stays on the market is only one minute, Studer said, adding that Downtown Hot Springs has some great potential.
Another key factor to attracting young people to the Hot Springs area is to have creative ways to help startups thrive.
This is the first time in history that young people search for a place to live first, then search for a job, he said. “You’ve got 60-70 percent of what people want,” he said, adding that good housing stock and startup help can really keep talent in Hot Springs, attract talent back, and attract new talent.
“I don’t know why someone would want to live in Little Rock, when they can live in Hot Springs,” he said.
Like Hot Springs, Pensacola depends on tourism. However, the best way to support tourism is to create a high quality of life for the people who live here, he said.
“If you do things for people who live here, the tourists win too,” he said.
Studer emphasized the importance of developing the Majestic Hotel site in the right way.
“You want to do the best market research,” he said. Putting the right thing in the right location can make a big impact on Hot Springs. However, he added putting the wrong thing in the wrong location, can also have big impact, but one that is not desired.
Studer said the Hot Springs community has many wonderful aspects that could be maximized, like recreation and the downtown area.
“You are not taking advantage of things that can take you to the next level,” he said.
Another way to help downtown thrive is increase the walkability by slowing traffic down on Central Avenue. Studer also sees potential for Whittington Avenue to attract people to the downtown area.
“Residential is so vital to a community. You have some great opportunity,” he said.