Speaking at the grand opening ceremony Thursday (March 5) for the Embassy Suites Red Wolf Convention Center on the Arkansas State University campus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson touted the value of partnerships to achieve goals that benefit the participants and the state.
“This particular private-public partnership makes a difference for Northeast Arkansas,” he said, noting that he expects a number of conventions, meetings and seminars to take place in the newly opened facility.
Hutchinson complimented the efforts of ASU leaders, the community, O’Reilly Hospitality Management, the facility operator, and the Delta Regional Authority for their collaboration to bring the convention center to fruition.
“The hotel-convention center is going to help Arkansas State, it will benefit their football and (other) sports and will serve as a classroom for ASU’s budding hospitality management program as well as an employer,” Hutchinson said. “And, it will help me in recruiting industry to Northeast Arkansas.”
Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Hospitality, noted that his family’s relationship with Jonesboro began prior to the launch of the hotel-convention center project to when O’Reilly Auto Parts located a store here. O’Reilly said the work with local leaders to establish the hotel and convention center began about 7 years ago.
“In that time, I’ve grown very fond of Jonesboro and Arkansas State,“ he said.
O’Reilly added that the facility will serve “as a living laboratory and centerpiece of (ASU’s) hospitality management program.”
ASU System President Dr. Chuck Welch noted that a groundbreaking ceremony was conducted “659 days ago” and the project was slowed by wet, muddy conditions. DRA executive director Chris Caldwell said the public-private partnership utilized to bring the project to fruition “is the kind of project we like to invest in with the private sector leading the way.”
The facility, located adjacent to ASU’s athletic facilities, has received funding from both the DRA and the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission.
In an interview after the program, Hutchinson was asked whether his task to get the Medicaid expansion program known as Arkansas Works continued by the General Assembly will be more difficult following Tuesday’s election which saw Rep. Dan Sullivan oust incumbent Sen. John Cooper. Sullivan opposes the program, while Cooper supported it.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Hutchinson said.
Though Hutchinson supported Cooper in the GOP primary, he said that after Sullivan won the race, he called and congratulated Sen.-elect Sullivan.
“The elections are done,” Hutchinson said. “I hope to find matters on which we can come together.”