Fayetteville gets first look at economic plan
FAYETTEVILLE — The first leg of the city’s new economic development plan has brought in business, opened communication with longtime establishments and opened a path of potential, according to the plan’s executors.
Representatives with the Chamber of Commerce and Startup Junkie Consulting on Tuesday gave City Council members a presentation on progress made between October and March toward economic development goals. The council adopted the Fayetteville First plan last summer. The plan started with a two-year, $300,000 contract with Startup Junkie and a $360,000 contract with the chamber, also over two years.
Startup Junkie took on getting new businesses off
the ground and making the city live up to the moniker “Startup City of the South.” The chamber focused on retail, expansion and keeping the city’s well- established businesses around.
Chung Tan, director of economic development with the chamber, said more than half of the 56 businesses the chamber has interviewed so far this year reported expansion in some way. The contract specifies the chamber will sit down oneon-one with 100 businesses in a year.
The benefit is not only learning what businesses like about the city, but what needs improvement, Tan said. Respondents listed an unrealistic tree ordinance, inconsistency with permitting and licensing and high housing costs as challenges.
The city also needs more office and retail space, Tan said.
“This region has been called hot, very hot,” she said. “We’re just running out of space.”
Jeff Amerine, founder of Startup Junkie, showcased a number of events and programs the firm has hosted, including Minority Plug, NWA Venture MashUp and ScaleUp Demo Days. More than 3,500 attendees exchanged ideas all over the city.
“The reason for pulling these things together is not just to have a party,” he said. “It’s because every time, the creative collisions that occur lead to other business opportunities.”
A major initiative will bring Spectrum Living Solutions to an as-yet undetermined site in the city. The concept will put residents with developmental disabilities, mostly on the autism spectrum, with founders of “microbusinesses.” The public-private partnership could create more than 600 jobs.
Devin Howland, the city’s economic vitality director, said the program would serve a unique role for an often overlooked population.
“I think this is something where if it’s going to be somewhere, Fayetteville is the best place,” he said. “We are a diverse community. We’re inclusive. And I think this is the best place to have that kind of an outreach effort.”