Business reels in retailers in rural locales

Andrew Moreau, November 21, 2021

Across Arkansas, it’s not uncommon for amateur anglers to hire guides who know the best fishing spots and supply all the materials needed to land a big catch.

Rural leaders in the state are doing much the same thing to attract retail businesses to their communities. The small cities are turning more and more to a Birmingham, Ala.-based firm to build marketing plans that are the bait they need to reel in retailers

The effort is gaining traction and has helped Newport persuade Cobblestone to build a 54-room hotel. Harrison attracted a Planet Fitness to fill an abandoned discount store. Paragould lured a Freddy Frozen Custard & Steakburger outlet to the site of a former funeral home.

On Nov. 2, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission coordinated a daylong Retail Academy session including city and economic development officials representing Corning, Mena, Prescott and Warren.

“We’re small-town America and we don’t have the financial or personnel resources to develop an economic development plan for our community,” said Mena Mayor Seth Smith. “This gave us a lot of information about what would be a good fit for our community and who we should approach. Before this, we didn’t know who to really call.”

“This gave us a lot of information about what would be a good fit for our community and who we should approach. Before this, we didn’t know who to really call.”

Mena Mayor Seth Smith

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