Rogers Mayor Greg Hines said the explosion of growth around the city in the past decade is nowhere near complete. Hines said his team meets often with those who have an interest in locating or expanding their operations.
“We met with Top Golf executives last week again and they are committed to this region along with Hunt Ventures. They will be submitting a large scale project plan to the city in the coming weeks and this project will go through that development process. I don’t yet have any timeline or schedule that i can release. I will say they are coming to Rogers,” Hines told Talk Business & Politics.
He said Top Golf is a great example of how far the region has come in the past few years. City leaders have been talking with them for at least five years but the answer was always the same: the population numbers were not enough.
“Rogers is approaching the 70,000 mark by the next Census,” Hines said during a Thursday (Sept. 27) presentation at the Cross Church Summit Luncheon.
But the entire region boasts a population of roughly 537,500 people and continues to be growing at faster clip than most metros in the country. Hines said city leaders have done a great job selling the region to businesses like Top Golf and At Home which opened in Rogers last year. Each of those retail businesses don’t usually build in markets of this size, nor does Dave & Buster’s or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, but each have landed in Rogers, he noted.
“The Rogers economy has changed over the years from largely an industrial base to become the downtown retail center of Northwest Arkansas. The success of the western corridor development which is still filling out, has afforded the city funds to work on reviving our historic, original downtown area.”
He said corporate CEOs from around the country routinely scout the region for possible investments and expansion. They may look at new retail space in the Pinnacle area of Rogers or near Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Springdale, but Hines said they also drive through downtowns in those cities because they want to see how vibrant they are.
Hines said all of the cities along the Intersstate 49 corridor in Northwest Arkansas know the importance of reinvigorating their downtown areas with affordable housing, businesses and retail establishments for food and entertainment. He said the labyrinth of bike trails around the region are also meant to drive more traffic toward downtowns.
While downtown Rogers does not lie on the Razorback Greenway, there is a new 6.2-mile trail spur from the greenway that goes to historic downtown Rogers. He said while city government is not a job creator, the work that goes on to build infrastructure such as water systems, roads, trails and parks is done so job creators will be able to locate and expand operations. He said the $300 million bond just passed by residents will ensure more new roads, parks and a fire station will be built.
Hines said the Pinnacle Village, an urban lifestyle project announced recently, will also continue to bring more folks to this region. He said the investments are upwards of $200 million and the new concept will draw interest from around the country. Pinnacle Village will be a mixed-used, walkable urban neighborhood with access to the the Razorback Greenway. The project requires rezoning and infrastructure work which is expected to begin within the next two months.
When asked about Duluth Trading Company, which recently staked out a location near At Home in southwest Rogers, Hines said this entire area around Pleasant Grove Road continues to develop behind the commitment of Whisenhunt, the Little Rock-based developer. He said the Duluth Trading Company deal is the first store of its kind in Arkansas. The Wisconsin-based chain has just under 40 stores, more than half of them have opened in the past two years.
“This is great because when they get here I won’t have to order from them online any longer,” Hines said.
Also in the same vicinity, Michigan-based Northern Tool is eyeing a location near Hanks Furniture. A large-scale development plan was filed with the city in July to build a 20,000-square-foot store along northbound I49 in the Pleasant Crossing commercial development. This will be the second store in Arkansas for Northern Tool + Equipment.
While recruiting new development is a big part of the Hines’ job as mayor he said taking care of businesses and residents who already call Rogers home is just as important. He joked that growing up in Rogers many of residents have his cell phone number and while he might be meeting with a corporate group to discuss possible expansion, he also might be addressing a goat issue brought to his attention by a local resident.
Hines has been mayor for 8 years and reflecting upon his start in January 2011, he said the city had record snowfall in February, record rains in April and the longest drought in history through the summer, fall and winter. Hines joked that he took out his Bible because he knew about the locusts and three days of darkness but he just wanted to see what came next.
“Luckily for us we made it through the challenges in year one and the city has continued to prosper and grow,” Hines said.
Hines said one of his biggest challenges is staying grounded and flexible to new ideology while also protecting a culture in which he believes. He said sometimes that means saying “no” and other times it may mean purging the organization of those who don’t support the mission and purpose. Hines said early on in his tenure he had to let some folks go and while that was a hard decision it proved to be positive for the city long term.
“Sometimes you can add by subtraction,” he said.