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.
The Hot Springs area won big during the 31st Annual Arkansas Business of the Year Awards held at the State House Convention Center in Little Rock on March 6th.
Window Mart was named the Large Business of the Year and Lynn Blakenship, Executive Director of the Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic, took home Nonprofit Executive of the Year. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort was also nominated for Large Business of the Year.
Since 1996, Window Mart has grown to become a national manufacturer of custom vinyl window and doors. They are proud to be a Made in the USA Certified company. Located in Royal, they employ 285 people.
Window Mart has grown an average of 9 percent for the past three years. President Robert Tankersley attributes the growth to employee training, updating infrastructure, and strengthening relationships with Window Mart’s current customers.
Blankenship retired from a 30-year career in banking and began volunteering with CCMC, which at the time was a free medical clinic.
The Affordable Care Act eliminated much of CCMC’s reason for helping others. However Blankenship and the nonprofit learned having access to health insurance does not eliminate poverty.
Through Blankenship’s leadership, CCMC’s goal shifted. They added services to provide long-term solutions that aid those stuck in the poverty cycle, as well continue to assist those who cannot afford medical care.
CCMC serves about 1,500 people in the Hot Springs area yearly.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2019
NPC, SAU ANNOUNCE BACHELOR’S DEGREES IN HOT SPRINGS
Hot Springs, Arkansas – National Park College (NPC) and Southern Arkansas University (SAU) announced a degree partnership that will bring bachelor’s degree programs to Hot Springs beginning in fall 2019. The agreement was approved Wednesday, Feb. 27, during the February Board of Trustees meeting at NPC.
All four years of the three new degree programs will be offered through the National Park University Center on the NPC campus. Students will complete the first two years of the degrees enrolled as NPC students and the junior and senior years enrolled as SAU students. The degrees will include Biology, Pre-Health; Chemistry, Pre-Health Biochemistry; and Computer Science.
Students will pay NPC tuition rates for the first two years of coursework and SAU tuition rates for the junior and senior year coursework. Fees will be shared among both institutions. Students who participate will have access to all of the services and resources NPC offers, as well as those SAU offers. Students will earn an associate degree diploma from NPC and a bachelor’s degree diploma from SAU upon graduation.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Wade Derden said, “We want to be clear that this partnership is not a merger. It is structured like any typical 2+2 degree, but it is unique because students can complete it all on NPC’s campus or online.”
NPC President Dr. John Hogan said, “This is a monumental day for the students of Garland County, and one we’ve been working toward for many years. Four-year degrees on campus means they no longer have to relocate or commute long distances to complete their degree and increase their earning power. For our employers, it means access to a better educated workforce as our students learn here, earn here, and contribute to our local economy.”
“We are very grateful to SAU for their willingness to invest in Garland County students. We expressed the need for a partner to offer bachelor’s degrees on our campus and they have answered the call,” he added.
SAU President Dr. Trey Berry said, “SAU is extremely excited to work with National Park College and Dr. Hogan to fulfill his vision for this community and surrounding region. Today is about hope and opportunity—the opportunity for students to have access to specific areas of study previously inaccessible and the hope in a strong and willing partnership to make these opportunities attainable.”
NPC Board Chair Forrest Spicher said, “Garland County is the lowest among the ten largest counties in Arkansas in degree attainment and median family income. We have made this partnership a priority in order to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees in Hot Springs. This investment is critical to retain and attract young people and employers to our community. I am confident that increased degree attainment will create higher paying careers in the area and elevate the overall socioeconomic impact of our community.”
A public announcement for students was held immediately following the board meeting. Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Kettle to hear the news. NPC Student Government Association President Tyler Draper said, “Our College has come a long way since 1973. Just in my two years here, we’ve seen rapid expansion with the student commons and new road construction, residence halls and NJCAA sports. Today, our next chapter of growth is announcing three new bachelor’s degrees through the National Park University Center and Southern Arkansas University.”
More information about the degree plans can be found at saumag.edu/npc.
Pictured is Hogan and Berry shaking hands following the board’s approval of a degree partnership between NPC and SAU to bring three new bachelor’s degrees to Hot Springs beginning fall 2019.
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.
Southern Arkansas University “feels like home” with personalized tour visits, a student-centered atmosphere, and a beautiful campus that is buzzing with energy and life. SAU also offers more than 80 traditional and unique academic degree programs that are ranked nationally for quality and affordability. The list of opportunities available outside of the classroom at SAU is as broad and diverse as the list of degree programs. To find out more, visit www.SAUmag.edu.
Ritter Communications Announces $7 Million Investment to Build a High-Speed Broadband Network in Hot Springs
February 15, 2019
Jonesboro, AR. – (February 15, 2019) – Ritter Communications, the state’s leading broadband provider, announced today that it is bringing state of the art communications technology and advanced business services to Hot Springs. Ritter Communications, headquartered in Jonesboro, is investing $7 million in infrastructure construction to give businesses in the Spa City access to the highest speed, 100 percent fiber internet, voice, cloud solutions, networking and television services by late summer.
Ritter Communications is the first provider to offer XGS-PON service in Hot Springs, which provides access up to 10 gigabits per second of 100 percent fiber connectivity to customers. Ritter’s ultra-high-speed services utilizes signals that travel at the speed of light, resulting in the fastest, most reliable, secure service with less latency. “Ritter Communications is dedicated to bringing a whole new level of high-speed business communication solutions to Hot Springs,” said Alan Morse, Ritter Communications president. “This investment gives Spa City businesses the competitive advantage of access to the highest speed internet available.”
Ritter Communications is building infrastructure to serve the Hot Springs major business corridors in 2019. Ritter’s high-speed services will be available to business customers in zones beginning as early as August 2019. The company made the announcement at a news conference in Hot Springs on Friday. Gary Troutman, president/CEO of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership, said, “Ritter responded to fill a void we have in Hot Springs and in Garland County in terms of broadband connectivity. We’ve learned in our meetings with Ritter Communications not only are they a 5th-generation company with roots in Arkansas, but they are also engaged, caring and an involved community partner.”
Garland County Judge Darryl Mahoney, Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe, Gary Troutman of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership, Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce representatives and Ben Van Wagner, Oaklawn Jockey Club Director of IT joined Ritter President, Alan Morse for the announcement. At this time, the company plans to offer only business services in Hot Springs.
Ritter Communications is a regional telecommunications provider serving 89 communities and over 45,000 customers across three states with a full suite of innovative communications services.
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About Ritter Communications
Ritter Communications, founded in Marked Tree, Arkansas and headquartered in Jonesboro, began providing local phone service in 1906. Today, Ritter serves 89 communities and more than 45,000 customers across Arkansas, southeast Missouri and west Tennessee. The family-owned company has grown steadily over the years, expanding rapidly since 2010 and is now the largest locally owned regional fiber, telecom, video and cloud services provider in the state. Ritter invests heavily in the communities it serves by deploying proven, best-in-class infrastructure and technology while coupling it with a world-class customer focused experience. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of E. Ritter and Company, which also operates Ritter Agribusiness and Ritter Investment Holdings.
The Hot Springs Metro Partnership along with Visit Hot Springs held a Career Exploration Fair for Garland County 11th-grade students.
The fair was held on Thursday, Jan. 31st, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hot Springs Convention Center Hall D.
The purpose of the Career Exploration Fair was to expose students to local opportunities in the technical and trade-skills fields.
At the fair, representatives from area manufacturing businesses were on hand to answer questions, perform demonstrations, and give students hands-on information so they may better understand the career path possibilities available to them following high school.
It was a great opportunity for students to visit with those working in the field and glean first-hand knowledge of potential career paths.
Garland County is home to several major manufacturers that produce products shipped world-wide.
Among those companies is Alliance Rubber, which is the number one producer of rubber bands in the world. They manufacture 2,200 products and market them in 55 countries.
The leading supplier of team sports accessories also calls Hot Springs home. Tanners Team Sports works with brands like Rawlings Sporting Goods to develop accessories that complement their line of product, like bat grips and glove oil. They also produce an in-house brand, Vulcan Sporting Goods Co., and work with major retailers.
The Hot Springs area is also home to several aerospace manufacturers. Students interested in airplane mechanics and manufacturing were shown a great deal of opportunity in Hot Springs through Triumph Airborne Structures, Triumph Fabrication, CMT, Airtech Supply, and Cobalt Aero Services.
Workforce development is a main initiative of the Partnership in 2019.
OAKLAWN ANNOUNCES $100 MILLION-PLUS EXPANSION WITH CONSTRUCTION OF HIGH-RISE HOTEL, EVENT CENTER AND EXPANDED GAMING AREA
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming today announced plans to build an expansion project in excess of $100 million that includes the construction of a high-rise hotel, multi-purpose event center, a larger gaming area, and additional on-site parking.
The project is one of the largest hospitality investments in the history of Arkansas.
Click here to read the story.
Clay Connor: 501-262-5300
Veranda Luxury Pontoons
HOT SPRINGS, AR. AUGUST 20, 2018 - Veranda Luxury Pontoons announces the purchase of a 377,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, formerly General Cable plant in Hot Spring County, AR.
Veranda Luxury Pontoons is a 12-year-old company built on an innovative, patented interlocking deck system that creates the finest platform for luxury and performance pontoons in the industry. Veranda is a sister company to Xpress Boats, a 53-year-old family-owned, family-operated, high-performance all-welded aluminum fishing and hunting boat manufacturer that pioneered welding aluminum boats.
“The heritage and DNA of our company started—and continues to this day—with a focus on innovation. My grandfather and company founder was the original to all-weld an aluminum boat to create a unibody structure, and today Veranda employs a patented, all-aluminum system that’s completely wood free,” said president, Rory A. Herndon. Veranda Luxury Pontoons is one of the fastest-growing companies in its category. This new facility will allow us not only to expand our business and provide more product to our dealers, but most importantly employ hundreds of new and talented craftsmen and women from our community. This expansive office and manufacturing space will aid in improved production efficiencies, and enhanced quality, while maintaining and sustaining positive incremental growth”.
Triumph Airborne Structures announced it plans to hire 40 new employees after being awarded repair and maintenance contracts with a U.S. airline operator and for an unspecified military cargo aircraft.
They recently held a job fair to recruit mechanically skilled aerospace employees.
Triumph Airborne Structures employs about 225 people at its Hot Springs facility and is the third largest employer in the Hot Springs area.
For the full story click here.
(Hot Springs, AR) June 11, 2018 – The Hot Springs Metro Partnership announced the addition of Michelle Ratcliff as economic development manager.
In this role, she will work primarily with existing businesses and industry to maintain a database of pertinent information that can facilitate assistance in helping Hot Springs region employers in achieving their growth goals. She will also provide staff support to volunteer committees and task forces in the successful implementation of annual strategic plans for existing business retention and expansion, workforce development, entrepreneurial development, marketing and research.
"I look forward to working with the business and industry leaders in our community by providing support and assistance for them and their employees, and by helping to create opportunity for continued growth in the region,” Ratcliff said. “The Metro Partnership has a great team focused on the success of everyone in this area and I am honored to be a part of it."
Ratcliff and her husband, Mike, owned Lawn Doctor of Hot Springs for 17 years and most recently she has been affiliated with Cooperative Christian Ministries & Clinic.
She holds a bachelor’s of science degree in human resource management from Louisiana Tech University. She has a solid background in personnel management and has worked with senior management of companies.
Ratcliff is the current United Way of the Ouachita’s Board President, Vice President of the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club and serves on the Ouachita Children’s Center board.
Named the 2016 Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year, she is also the 2015-2016 Hot Springs National Park Rotarian of the Year.
“We are tremendously excited to have someone of Michelle’s experience, talent and reputation of leadership in the community join our team at the Hot Springs Metro Partnership,” said Gary Troutman, President and CEO. “Our HSMP members and industry partners will appreciate capitalizing on her wealth of knowledge, her desire to facilitate their growth, and her willingness to help them tackle any challenge they may be encountering.”
“Michelle will fill a great need in our community,” said Cole McCaskill, the HSMP’s Vice President of Economic Development. “Over 80 percent of job growth comes from small businesses that are expanding and she will work directly with those local companies to help them expedite their growth.”
The mission of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership is to create economic opportunity throughout the Hot Springs Region.
Chamber Celebrates 100th Business to Open in Downtown Hot Springs since the 2014 Majestic Hotel Fire
(Hot Springs, AR) May 3, 2018 – On Thursday, the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 100th new business to open in downtown Hot Springs since the 2014 Majestic Hotel fire with a special ribbon cutting at Vault, the highly anticipated new downtown restaurant.
“One hundred new businesses opening in four years is an incredible milestone. It’s real proof of a very strong economy in downtown Hot Springs,” said Cole McCaskill, Vice President of Economic Development with the Hot Springs Metro Partnership.
“Even more impressive is that of the 100 new businesses, 90 of them are still open and 66 of them were net-new additions to downtown, meaning they occupied and opened in a retail space that was previously vacant as opposed to replacing a recently closed business.”
In addition to 100 new businesses since the fire, Downtown Hot Springs has seen 82 commercial property sales and more than $80 million in investment.
The Majestic Hotel was one of Hot Springs’ oldest structures. It unfortunately that became dormant and fell into disrepair before catching fire in February 2014.
The loss of one of Hot Springs’ historic and iconic buildings mobilized city and business leaders into action to revitalize and preserve the downtown area. Downtown Hot Springs, “America’s First Resort,” is famous nationwide for its history and culture. It is important to the people of Hot Springs to see this area flourish.
In the weeks following the fire, civic groups formed the “Downtown Game Plan Task Force” comprised of community leaders and downtown stakeholders that sought to prevent future tragedies like the fire and to improve the course of downtown which had suffered from a lack of investment for several decades.
That group met publicly and privately for four months and ultimately released a set of recommendations for the progress of downtown. The HSMP adopted those recommendations as a strategy and hired McCaskill as downtown development director in June 2014.
Each year since the fire, downtown has experienced subsequent rising investment levels.
In 2015, downtown saw the nearly year-long master planning process from ideation to completion with the facilitation by Thomas P. Miller and Associates from Indianapolis.
That strategic planning process sought input from downtown business owners, Garland County residents and visitors for what they’d like to see in downtown. The Downtown Redevelopment Guide was published and its goals and strategies were adopted to provide a framework for growth and development for downtown by the City of Hot Springs and the HSMP.
The Chamber and HSMP look forward to future growth and expansion in the downtown area.
The 100 New Businesses Opened Downtown Since Majestic Fire:
1. Kilwins Chocolates
2. Kollective Coffee+Tea
3. Wolfheart Gallery
4. All Things Natural
5. Render Creative Group
6. Henderson State University- Hot Springs
7. Copper Penny Pub
9. Mountain’s Edge (significant remodel and reopening)
10. Bathhouse Row Winery
11. Tropical Winery
12. Deluca’s Pizza
13. Air FX Heat & Air
14. Evil-O Olive Oils
15. Café 135
16. 4D Adventure
17. State & Pride Provisions Co.
18. Red Light Roastery
19. KUHS Community Radio
20. Mountain Valley Armory
21. Red Sunflower Boutique
22. Hotel Hot Springs
23. Rock Paper Scissors Salon
24. Dakotas Hair Designs
25. Vina Morita (move and expansion)
26. Gr8 Escapes Arkansas
27. Zoe’s In The District
28. Gehrki Commercial Real Estate
29. Dapper & Debonair
30. Rocket Fizz
31. The Civil War Museum West
32. Tosha Kitchen
33. Escape Hot Springs
34. A Narrow Escape
35. Magic Springs Retail Store
36. J.J.’s Peddie Cabs
37. Quarters Café
38. Brick City Pizza
39. Prohibition Press
40. Park Avenue Coin Shop
41. Hot Springs Village Discovery Center
42. Gypsy Girl
43. Craft Beer Cellar
44. Kringles in the Park
45. Maharaja Boutique
46. Galaxy Connection
47. Spa City Cycling
48. ESQ. Realty Group
49. Crow Law Firm
50. Metaphysical Connection
51. The Waters Hotel
52. The Avenue
53. Blush Boutique
54. Spa Souvenirs
55. Pour Some Sugar on Me Sweet Shoppe
56. Downtowner Marketplace
57. Direct Insurance
58. Revelation Teens
59. Whittington Gallery
60. Mountain Valley Armory (new construction & expansion)
61. Ambrosia Bakery
62. State & Pride Provisions Co. (Doubled in Size)
63. A Bite of Hot Springs
64. Riley Art Glass Studio
65. Beef Jerky Outlet
66. Odie & Tilly’s Boutique
67. Park Avenue Food Court/ Its Gud Fud
68. Dame Fortune’s Cottage Court
69. Thai-Me and Argentinian Coffee
70. Legoria’s Rhythm and Rocks Jazz Bistro
71. Plum & Pretty Boutique
72. Dogs on the Run- Hot Dog Vendor- Arlington Park
73. The Loft Salon & Spa
75. Wills Cinnamon Shop
76. Roanoke Church Whittington
77. Lox Salon
78. Home Instead
79. Jack Knife Barbershop
80. Next Gen Tie-dyes & Apparel
81. TLI Print- (Property Acquisition, Renovation and Expansion)
82. Mirror, Mirror Salon
83. Belle of Hot Springs Retail Store
84. Bubba Brews Spa City Taproom
85. Maxwell Blade’s Malco
86. Oddities Museum
87. Culinary District Cafe
88. Handmade Holiday Shop
90. Park Avenue Parking Lot
91. TRex Fun Spot (new construction and expansion)
92. Grateful Head Pizza
93. Urban Living & Development
94. Core Public House
95. Hot Springs Advertising
96. Healthy Connections Administration Office
97. Majestic Bakery & Café
98. ParadICE Cream
99. Taylor’s Lunchbox
The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce is Hot Springs’ leading advocate and champion for business.
For further information, contact Mara Kuhn at 501.321.1700 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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