Bob Purvis is home. After a career spanning close to 50 years in marketing and promotion, including 20 years as the executive director of the Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission and the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce and 20 years as the executive director of the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission and Pine Bluff Convention Center, Purvis accepted the role of director for the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.
He started May 1.
While Purvis hasn’t lived in Greenwood for decades, he has four grandchildren living there and “has attended many Bulldog games” over the years. He’s only served in the new position for a month, but tells Talk Business & Politics he sees a city “busting at the seams.”
“We have new businesses coming open. We have people making this their home.” Purvis said Greenwood is in a unique position to prosper with developments at Chaffee Crossing like the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) and the growing tide of businesses headquartered there such as ArcBest, Glatfelter, and Mars Petcare. “What’s happening there is going to help us in Greenwood.”
And Highway 49, if or when it happens, will be right on our front door. Right now, our chamber is wanting to become more seriously involved with those economic development efforts” as well as “how we can get more involved with what the regional alliance is doing.”
Purvis continued: “How do I, as a chamber director and us as an economic development group, get ahold of new instructors at the medical school, tour them through Greenwood, and see if it’s where they want to live?” Other than that, it’s about “being a facilitator.”
“How do we help people get the information they need, the city government details, permitting info, demographics — anything to help businesses and residents locate here. We’re positioned in a really good physical part of the region. We have great schools, scenic areas, trails, and lots of the quality-of-life things people want.”
Purvis said he’s impressed with city leadership for anticipating the growth to come and “trying to get out in front of it.”
“What the city is looking at, and how they’re trying to go, is working with the Highway Commission on a study to see about a Highway 10 bypass to improve traffic through town. It will be very important to our transportation arteries here.”
Purvis hears the long-time complaints about morning and afternoon traffic log jamming as people travel to work and school.
“During school time, Center Street can get pretty bogged down. The city has been looking for years at widening the highway, but this would take where Highway 96 runs into Highway 10, where Highway 10 makes its hard right turn, and it would loop around the downtown area. It’s only about a half to three-quarters of a mile to do. Not a real long bypass, but it would give that through-traffic the ability to move through downtown. The Highway Department will look at it this month to see if it’s a viable project, and then they’ll start engineering studies. It may be too expensive, and in that case, we could look at widening the existing Highway 10.”
For such a project to fly, the “absolute minimum the city has to come up with is 10%, but the bigger the percentage the city could come up with, we’ve been told, the sooner it could get funded.” The Highway Department will be looking at what existing traffic and how it’s going to change and what it could look like with the planned project completed, Purvis said.
“The city is looking at all those things and trying the best they can to stay in front of it. It would give more opportunities for additional businesses on Highway 10.” The Highway Commission presented “preliminary drawings” to the city at a council meeting “a few weeks ago,” Purvis added.
Another “staying ahead of it” example Purvis gave that could make his job easier is the city’s plans to start “sewering new areas out along Highway 71.”
“The sewer line in front of Greenwood on (U.S._ 71 is not completely sewered. You’ll notice when you drive down it and pass Greenwood, there is no convenience store or 7-11, and that would be a logical place. But there isn’t adequate sewer right there, so the city approved an initial study to go in and say, ‘Here’s how we need it. If you put the sewer line in, how do you get it to the sewer plant?’ And a bunch of next questions will come along with that. But it’s about identifying the growth potential and saying, ‘Let’s be prepared for it.’ They are taking a lot of steps to anticipate future growth.”