Thurs­day’s thumbs

Cor­po­rate HQs, preser­va­tion seen in dif­fer­ent ways

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Par­don our damp thumbs. We’ve been lick­ing them this week af­ter eat­ing a lit­tle roasted corn, bar­be­cue, fun­nel cakes, curly fries at the Ben­ton County Fair and we for­got our nap­kins. We might be back for more be­fore the fair wraps up Satur­day.

OK, we’re done now, just in time for this week’s in­stall­ment of Thurs­day’s thumbs.

OK, the world to­day seems to thrive on mak­ing lists. The top 10 this and the best 100 that. And North­west Arkansas ends up on a lot of those lists, many of them ben­e­fi­cial to the folks who get paid to pro­mote the re­gion. But the re­gion ended up on the low end of the spec­trum in ValuePen­guin. com’s (yeah, we didn’t make that up) mea­sure of 200 metro ar­eas and their friend­li­ness to small busi­nesses. That’s no big deal. Ev­ery­one has a list, but one of the char­ac­ter­is­tics for which North­west Arkansas got bad marks was per­plex­ing. The num­ber of large cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in the area was viewed as a neg­a­tive, os­ten­si­bly be­cause they can be dif­fi­cult for small busi­nesses to com­pete with. Ap­par­ently, the view is that large cor­po­rate head­quar­ters suck up all the avail­able hires in many in­stances, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for small busi­nesses to find the em­ploy­ees they need. But doesn’t it make sense that a lot of small busi­nesses can thrive be­cause those large cor­po­ra­tions hire peo­ple and pay them de­cent wages? It would take a ton of small busi­nesses to make up for the em­ploy­ment base of Wal­mart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson and sim­i­lar cor­po­ra­tions head­quar­tered lo­cally. So if the ar­gu­ment is those com­pa­nies rep­re­sent a neg­a­tive to North­west Arkansas, we ain’t buy­ing it.

About 17 spon­sors got into the spirit and have spon­sored free ad­mis­sion for all to the Ben­ton County Fair, which be­gan Tues­day and con­tin­ues through Satur­day at the fair­grounds. With a mis­sion to pro­mote agri­cul­ture and raise money for youth schol­ar­ships, the free ad­mis­sion is a great way to get those city folk out to take it all in. We com­mend those who work so hard to put on a great show and work to pre­serve the area’s agri­cul­tural and ru­ral roots.

Arkansas Chil­dren’s North­west plans work to re­duce the bur­dens on chil­dren be­fore they ever reach the hos­pi­tal, seek­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in ar­eas such as hunger, ac­cord­ing to Pres­i­dent and CEO Marcy Doderer. Mind­ful that Arkansas ranks poorly in the well-be­ing of chil­dren in many cat­e­gories, Doderer re­cently said the hos­pi­tal now un­der con­struc­tion will at­tempt to be a force for change out­side its walls on is­sues like child safety and food in­se­cu­rity. It’s great to wel­come the or­ga­ni­za­tion into the many North­west Arkansas ef­forts to make life bet­ter for kids.

It’s a sad day when a com­mu­nity has to ac­cept that one of its long-stand­ing struc­tures will soon be on the wrong end of a wreck­ing crew. Lately, the tale of loss has been hap­pen­ing in Fayet­teville, where new pro­pri­etors of the Stone-Hil­ton House in the Wash­ing­ton-Wil­low His­toric District say they’ve eval­u­ated sav­ing the struc­ture but have con­cluded the house is too far gone. Nat­u­rally, any­thing can be re­stored if some­one is will­ing to pay the price, but just be­cause some­thing makes sense in terms of preser­va­tion doesn’t al­ways mean it makes eco­nomic sense. The sit­u­a­tion demon­strates how for­tu­nate all of us are to have some home and build­ing own­ers who un­der­stand the value old, sig­nif­i­cant struc­tures bring to com­mu­ni­ties. Not ev­ery build­ing can be (or nec­es­sar­ily should be) saved, but it also shouldn’t be viewed as so in­con­se­quen­tial that de­mo­li­tion be­comes an easy choice. His­toric preser­va­tion ad­vo­cates are right to be vo­cal and to, at the least, make own­ers of older prop­er­ties think strongly about preser­va­tion op­tions. Still, it’s un­fair to vil­lainize own­ers who ul­ti­mately can’t make that choice, es­pe­cially new own­ers who played no role in al­low­ing a prop­erty to fall into dis­re­pair.

Those who ad­vo­cate for his­toric preser­va­tion do a ser­vice to their com­mu­ni­ties. In the case of the StoneHil­ton House (see above), it sounds like their con­cerns came too late. There’s fairly well-placed skep­ti­cism that the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion will be will­ing to sup­port a strong his­toric preser­va­tion or­di­nance, but is that all that can be done? For ex­am­ple, in Fayet­teville’s lovely Wash­ing­ton-Wil­low His­toric District, is there room for a non­profit group that might raise funds to pro­mote preser­va­tion? Could that be a way to cre­ate a stronger cul­ture of preser­va­tion within that unique neigh­bor­hood? Could money raised be used in the form of grants to make preser­va­tion the more eco­nom­i­cal choice? We’re just spit­balling this, but not ev­ery so­lu­tion is found at City Hall or the state Capi­tol. Some­times, a ded­i­cated group of pri­vate res­i­dents can make an amaz­ing dif­fer­ence. (Just take a look at the Fayet­teville Nat­u­ral Her­itage As­so­ci­a­tion as a prime ex­am­ple.) We be­lieve pri­vate prop­erty own­ers have strong rights, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be in­flu­enced.

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