Business Leaders Getting behind Springdale ACH Expansion

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 317 views 

Kirk Dupps and Mike Sewell know first-hand the value of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Dupps’ 3-year-old grandson was diagnosed only a couple of years ago with acute myeloid leukemia, and has received care at the Little Rock-based health care organization, the only pediatric medical center in the state and the sixth-largest in the country.

“We chose ACH for treatment, and we have not had one single regret,” Dupps said of his grandson, who has been in remission for 15 months.

 Sewell’s son underwent a successful procedure at ACH in Little Rock nearly 20 years ago after he and his family relocated to Northwest Arkansas from Phoenix.

“He is doing fantastic now,” Sewell reported.

Their personal stories aside, the two Northwest Arkansas business leaders also see the economic benefit of ACH’s plan to build a regional campus in Springdale. That is why they have pledged to work aggressively throughout the business community to help raise the needed funding for construction, technology and equipment for the health care project.

In the coming months, they’ll each have high-profile roles to help the cause.

Sewell, senior vice president with consulting and sales company Market Performance Group in Bentonville, is co-chair of the 23rd annual Will Golf 4 Kids charity golf tournament. It was founded in 1993 by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to benefit ACH, and was handed over to the supplier community in 1998. Sewell had deep roots in the supplier community and has been a co-chair for more than a decade.

Dupps, a retired Walmart executive and a co-founder of Community First Bank of Harrison, is a co-chair of the ninth annual Color of Hope Gala, founded in 2005 to complement the golf tournament. The gala features a live and silent auction.

The two events, heavily supported by Northwest Arkansas’ vast supplier community, are held in conjunction: the two-day golf tournament in Bella Vista is scheduled Aug. 4 and 5, and the Color of Hope at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers is the evening of Aug. 5. They are the most significant corporate philanthropy events each year for ACH. Together, they have raised more than $13 million.

In the past, the funds raised supported multiple ACH programs, namely neonatal intensive care at its Little Rock campus and the Angel One air medical transportation services.

But for the next five years, money raised by the two events will go solely to construction, technology and equipment for the new hospital in Springdale.

The two events combined to raise $892,000 in 2015, but the bar was raised June 7, when it was announced they were pledging $5 million to the construction of the Northwest Arkansas campus, with $1 million to be distributed in each of the next five years.

The $5 million commitment raised the total pledged so far toward the regional campus to $25.5 million. In May, ACH announced an $8 million gift from Walmart and Walmart Foundation, and a $5 million gift from J. B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.

The pledged total also includes the land donated for the 37-acre campus by the families of Springdale business leaders Gary George and David Evans, which has been valued at $7.5 million.

“The generous support from the business community has been so encouraging,” ACH president and chief executive Marcy Doderer said. “We are grateful for these partnerships.”


Deeper Engagement

There are more than 1,300 Walmart suppliers who have a presence in Northwest Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Most of them are within 30 miles of the Walmart headquarters in Bentonville.

Sewell said it’s difficult to determine the exact number of supplier firms who support the two-day golf tournament. But the event draws between 250 and 260 teams each year. Those approximately 1,100 golfers, and the approximately 1,600 who attend the Color of Hope, offer a strong base of support.

But a bar of raising $1 million per year for each of the next five years will require even more.

“Getting new suppliers and getting more business leaders involved will be critical,” Sewell said.

Dupps believes a deeper engagement from the supplier community in the form of philanthropy will be embraced.

“The quality of life is so good here; except for an ocean, we’ve got everything,” he said. “This hospital is going to be the last jewel of making this almost a Utopian place to raise a family.

“Walmart and Tyson Foods have been taking care of their associates and their families forever, and I think the vendor community and the other businesses that are smaller are starting to realize how critical this will be to the area.”

Another surrogate working on behalf of ACH in the area’s business community is Celia Swanson, who retired in February from Walmart. She has volunteered for the ACH Foundation Board since 2010 and also has a personal story of a child who needed specialized pediatric care.

Swanson, who joined Walmart in 1989 and retired as a senior human resources executive with more than 35 years of leadership experience in the retail industry, said the mission to improve the health of children and families in Northwest Arkansas is a noble cause to support, particularly for businesses. That’s why she spends most of her time in retirement as a leading supporter for ACH, helping to make connections with key business leaders across the region.

“We have an opportunity to improve access to health care with the addition of this hospital campus, and I think that’s an important reason why businesses should participate in this campaign and be active participants with the hospital,” she said.

By the Numbers

The 233,000-SF hospital is scheduled to open in January 2018. Site preparation is already well underway across the street from Arvest Ballpark west of Interstate 49. The general contractor for the construction project is Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway. FKP Architects of Houston, Texas, and Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock have been chosen as the architectural firms to lead the design. The hospital will include 24 inpatient beds, 30 emergency department rooms, five operating rooms and 30 clinic rooms.

The estimated cost over the next five years to build and run the hospital is $427.7 million, according to ACH officials. That is a combination of the cost for construction, technology and equipment ($167 million) and operating expenses ($260.7 million).

As for the estimated investment over the next five years, ACH is spending $42.2 million in capital resources, operating revenue is estimated to be $232 million and the city of Springdale has issued up to $85 million in tax-exempt hospital revenue bonds, which are expected to mature in 2040.

ACH officials would not flatly state the exact philanthropic amount to add to that investment, mainly because it’s a fluid goal, but the financials that are known reveal it’s in the neighborhood of $68 million.

Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, considers the hospital one of the bigger economic developments in recent years for the region.

“At least from our perspective, it is [a big economic development event],” he said. “Arkansas Children’s Hospital represents a bright shining star. It’s important for businesses of every size, from two employees to 2,000. We’ve already seen these legacy businesses like Walmart, J.B. Hunt, that have been the shoulders we’ve stood on for the last four or five decades, who have stepped up to contribute, but every business has a role.”