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RLACC 2017 Annual Report - Economic Development Division

Posted by: JustinFreeman on Thursday, February 1, 2018
As seen in the February edition of the Chamber Voice, the 2017 Annual Report offers a summary of each Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce division's accomplishments in 2017. An extended version of each division will be profiled on the Voice of Business Blog. The next department summarized is Economic Development. Economic Development New job creation and business expansion impacts businesses by creating meaningful opportunities for Chamber members to sell their goods and services to new businesses and residents. The Economic Development Division will work with industries both large and small in our community to increase job growth and business expansion as well as with individuals to increase our growing small business community. Objective: Proactively promote expansion and retention of local businesses and industry. Chamber staff has responded to eight (8) Requests for Information sent from site consultants and industries on projects. Five (5) had criteria that could not be accommodated. The others had criteria matched for Rogers and are in consideration. Meetings occurred between AEDC and four (4) potential manufacturing projects to discuss expansions in Rogers. Gamo/Daisy announced an expansion that will create over 40 new jobs and create new capital investment in Rogers. Staff presented before the Rogers City Council and Benton County Quorum Court to approve tax back incentives for upcoming Cryovac and Dymark expansions that will create manufacturing jobs. Staff has conducted 204 BRE surveys this year. A total of 51 of these BRE surveys was conducted with minority-owned businesses. Staff continues to use and maintain current databases and software to track BRE survey results and project management tools to proactively help meet the needs of large industries in the area. Northwest Arkansas (MSA) was ranked as the Fifth Best Place to Live by U.S. News and World Report and Rogers ranked 45th on Time Money’s Top 100 Places to Live in 2017. Two (2) groundbreaking ceremonies for both retail and office space were held in Rogers in 2017. Rogers had over 2,500 jobs created in 2017. The current unemployment rate is 2.5 percent year-to-date. Objective: Support or lead the process to identify regional community development initiatives to advance the region’s competitiveness for jobs, workers and capital investment. Chamber staff worked with the Northwest Arkansas Council and state groups to focus on Workforce Development projects. The first K2J Connect event took place at The Pinnacle Hills Promenade in February and had over 75 parents, students, and teachers attend. The second K2J event took place in February and focused on healthcare careers in Northwest Arkansas. A partnership with Starfish will allow for educators to receive professional development credits for attending K2J events. Chamber staff attended the Walmart Manufacturers Summit and showcased Rogers-Lowell and the region as an ideal place for businesses seeking to take advantage of the Made In The USA initiative. Chamber staff attended the Walmart Road to Inclusion session focusing on overall employee engagement and diversity inclusion through hiring and recruiting in the region. Rogers-Lowell was the only Chamber invited to attend this session. Staff continued to meet with Innovate Arkansas and Start-Up Junkies to discuss ongoing entrepreneurial efforts in Northwest Arkansas and the Chamber's role in assisting them. The Chamber hosted follow up meetings for developers, engineers, architects and building owners to allow the City of Rogers Planning Department to review changes made to the City of Rogers Development Code. These meetings were a continuation of our efforts to interface with property owners, developers, architects, government and others to identify opportunities for development while connecting and facilitating relationships among potential partners. Objective: Expand services and retail amenities to help attract a diverse, first-class workforce. New retail/restaurant development continued at a good pace with 18 new restaurants opened in 2017. Staff spoke with seven (7) retail consultants about new retail options and shopping centers opening within Rogers in 2017. Objective:  Address employer and jobseeker needs through innovative web tools and other recruitment marketing. The 2017 NWA Spring Job Fair took place on May 17 at the Frisco Station Mall.  Over 220 people attended, and 50 employers exhibited. The 2017 NWA Fall Job Fair took place on October 4 at the Frisco Station Mall. Over 300 people attended, and 50 employers exhibited. A total of 74 jobs were posted on the Chamber's online Job Bank in 2017. A total of 26 resumes were posted on the Chamber's website in 2017. Objective:  Engage in Small Business Outreach. The Small Business Council developed a new social media marketing plan for Chamber University events. The Small Business Council created an online survey to gauge interest in a professional businesswomen’s program for 2018. Based upon those results, a committee was formed to incorporate this new program into the Program of Work for 2018. The first meeting took place in July (made up of volunteer members and Chamber staff). The first event for the new group, Hustle in Heels – LADIES LEAD NWA, was held November 28 with over 150 in attendance – Kick Off Your Heels. Chamber University Online launched in August. This online learning portal (Learning Management System) allows for more options for Chamber members, and a broader reach with small business education. A sponsor covered costs for five (5) sessions for all Chamber members. Chamber University held eight (8) Sunrise Seminar Series seminars in 2017. A partnership was formed with the Rogers Public Schools to assist with business plan contests. Staff spoke at Rogers Heritage High School to discuss economic development and business attraction. The Small Business Toolkit now has new content on the Chamber's website. Updates are being added monthly.  New content partnerships are also constantly being identified. Staff assisted 347 individuals seeking resources on starting a small business. They were referred to the Small Business Resource Center at the Chamber’s offices and strategic partners. Staff worked with Marketing Communications to re-brand the Doing Business in Rogers-Lowell Guide. The guide is now called the NWA Entrepreneur’s Guide and is available on the website as a download. The publication is being promoted in the Chamber’s channels. Staff updated The Good Life magazine, Community Profile and website with census, major employer and earnings information earlier in the year. Objective:  Engage in Downtown Development. The Chamber continued to seek first points-of-contact for downtown development and implementation of the Downtown Master Plan by facilitating community meetings that lead to business growth.    In 2017, 181 meetings were held with building owners, developers, business owners, city staff and others to learn their concerns while discussing how to best meet their interests and business goals. Downtown has seen significant development activity in 2017:
  • Thirty-eight (38) businesses have opened their doors.
  • Two (2) small apartment communities have opened.
  • A total of 14 additional businesses are currently scheduled to open in 2018.
Fourth quarter of 2017 generated requests for meetings and/or possible partnerships from The Walton Family Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Ropeswing Hospitality Group. Downtown Rogers activities that complement art, culture and quality of life have generated the interest of these organizations. Chamber staff met with more than 750 individuals through networking with a variety of non-profit organizations, corporations, The City of Rogers, media personnel and other groups to promote and encourage economic development and quality of life in Downtown Rogers. Staff reached out to 188 regional businesses exploring the benefits of expansion into Downtown Rogers and facilitating new introductions and relationships between among prospective business partners to foster positive networking and business opportunities. Currently, nine (9) commercial buildings between Arkansas and 3rd St. on Walnut St., are being renovated. At least 14 businesses are slated to open in Downtown Rogers during the first half of 2018 including: retail, restaurants, offices, apartments, and mixed-use developments. These new businesses are projected to create more than 150 new jobs. A video announcing the renovation and tenants of The 1907, formerly The Dollar Saver, debuted on the Chamber Facebook page and had record traffic in excess of 88,000 views. The Chamber produced 28 short videos to promote Downtown Rogers and highlight economic development and interactive experiences. Other media outreach resulted in earned news coverage to showcase downtown economic development achievements. Stories have featured the food truck park, trends toward health and wellness businesses, downtown art experiences, partnerships with Rogers Public Schools, Bikes on the Bricks in conjunction with Bikes, Blues & BBQ, dog friendly downtown businesses and businesses started by teenagers, new business openings and implementation and updates to the city’s Downtown Rogers Master Plan. Downtown business development saw a trend in health and wellness. These businesses complemented The Railyard Bike Park, The Downtown Rogers Farmers Market, the trail system and Lake Atalanta Park. There is growing interest in restaurants, food trucks and venues that offer entertainment and experiences. Chamber staff organized an October meeting to bring the Community Development & Risk Reduction offices and Rogers Water Utilities together with 21 downtown commercial property owners and developers to facilitate positive relationships. Three (3) videos were created to highlight the City of Rogers services and to present a case study about Ozark Beer Company and how these government entities helped a small business owner through the challenges of redeveloping an historic, mixed use property in downtown. The Chamber promoted the Experience Districts via the presence of locally owned businesses that offer original art, live entertainment, outdoor activities, a variety of dining experiences and other interactive experiences that attract investors, new residents and patrons to Downtown Rogers. The parks and trails system, historic surroundings and a welcoming quality of life are among the features that make Downtown Rogers attractive to a growing number of businesses and investors. The Chamber was actively involved with the new, monthly Art on the Bricks Art Walk and the Rogers Experimental House, Inc to promote the vision of a maker community outlined in the Downtown Rogers Master Plan. Chamber staff also volunteered for programs and events offered by Main Street Rogers, Go Downtown Rogers and Downtown Rogers Rotary Club.

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