Tyson Foods in its 80th year as a company based in Springdale made a $1 million donation to the Downtown Springdale Alliance to help revitalize the city’s downtown. The money will support the non-profits organization’s effort to develop infrastructure and green space.
“My grandfather started Tyson Foods 80 years ago on Emma Avenue,” said John Tyson, chairman of the company. “We’re proud of our heritage here. We look forward to the regeneration of downtown Springdale, and the positive impact it will have on this great city’s economy and its future.”
CEO Donnie Smith made the presentation at the Springdale Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon on Friday (Jan. 23) in front of more than 800 area business leaders at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale. When applause erupted with the announcement, Smith told the crowd to hold on because he wasn’t finished sharing good news.
Tyson also plans to relocate its company store and employment center from Lowell to the former JTL Shops building at 516 E. Emma Ave. The 28,000-square-foot building will also house Tyson Foods’ records management group. The move should see 25 Tyson employees working in downtown Springdale by late summer.
Tyson Foods purchased the JTL Shops building in June for $450,000, according to the county real estate records.
Smith said the employment center and the company store would bring a wide array of visitors downtown on any given day, on top of those who work there.
“For 80 years we’ve lived and worked in Springdale. For 80 years, we’ve done business here, shopped here and raised our children here. We’re rooted in Springdale,” Smith said. “But Springdale is not just our past. Springdale is our future. We’ve grown from a small operation to a global one and we’ve chosen to do that here.”
Tyson first announced plans to relocate some of its workforce downtown last year at the dedication of Walter Turnbow Plaza on Emma Avenue.
“We couldn’t be happier with today’s announcements from Tyson Foods. While the $1 million is wonderful, bring the people back to downtown is the gift that will keep on giving,” said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.
Tyson was not the only positive news announced at the annual luncheon.
“We have several innovative companies in Springdale that continue to help grow our city. Sam’s Furniture will make the news this year as it moves into new 100,000 square-foot under construction now by Mathias Properties,” Sprouse said.
Joe Donaldson of Sam’s Furniture said they virtually doubled their showroom space with the new facility later this year making Sam’s Furniture the largest furniture dealer in the state.
“We will add about 15 new workers to our staff of 48 as we ramp up later this year,” Donaldson told The City Wire.
South Coast Baking came to Springdale in 2014 and the cookie maker has quickly ramped up to three shifts. Growing business means that the South Coast will add a second line of production, bringing another 150 jobs to Springdale by the end of the year, Spouse said.
Alcoa’s Kawneer plant in Springdale plans to invest between $3 million and $5 million on its local facility in 2015. The plant employs 500, including 70 engineers. Sprouse said this company also contributed $88,000 toward charitable causes in the city last year.
Lastly, Sprouse said Next Level Achievement, the former All Star Sports Arena, is under new ownership and will be home to three area teams. The venue has also slated 30 sports tournaments this year that will bring more visitors to the city. Sprouse added that the 10% annual rise in sales tax revenue last year was proof that Springdale is destined for more growth.
Lisa Ray, Springdale market president for Arvest Bank, said the stars were definitely aligned in the city last year.
“I can’t believe the interest that I am seeing in the bank from investors who are eyeing downtown Springdale. Tyson has done so much to help push the momentum forward and it’s working. The Downtown Springdale Alliance outlined a need for $20 million to help bring the city’s downtown up to par with our neighbors. There’s still a lot of work to do,” Ray told The City Wire.
The keynote speaker for the event was Ken Schmidt, the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company. He joked as he took the stage that everywhere he speaks people are hoping to draw more folks to their cities.
“Now I know were all the people are going. Could you please take what’s in the water here in Springdale and ship some up to Milwaukee,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt delivered a candid speech on the fall and rise of Harley Davidson. He said Harley Davison does not sell products. It sells a lifestyle because it had been able create a story that is retold daily by the disciples (customers) who ride Harleys. Most company’s fail because they lead with their product, he added.
“Harley leads with its culture,” Schmidt said. “It’s very hard to create differentiation in a world that does not see differences.”
He said Harley outsells Honda 18 to 1, and Honda builds a good bike in the Shadow that looks almost exactly like a Harley. The Honda sells for about $8,000 and the Harley sells for about $24,000.
“If consumers were rational they would be buy more Hondas. But, we are an emotional species,” Schmidt said.
Another mistake he said companies make is that don’t have friendly stories that resonate with consumers.
“There’s a reason nobody ever repeats your mission statement. Your story has got to be one that resonates and is repeated over and over. Think about it this way: If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, then there would be no Los Vegas. You want people to share your story,” Schmidt said.