Learning about Downtown Malvern Economic Development

Staff Writer

Rick McClure with the economic development corporation, was the guest speaker at the weekly Malvern Lions Club meeting on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
McClure spoke on his journey of changing his perspective of his community. McClure began by explaining that Hot Spring County has an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent and has a large workforce. He explained that retail has changed over the past century. From 1900 to 1940 was the era of the general store. From 1940 to 1970 was the owner operator stores in a downtown setting. Then in the 1970s to around 2010 there were big box stores like that of Walmart and K-Mart. Since 2010 the trend of retail has moved to mostly online with only a few physical stores. McClure said that the economy is good, but retail has changed and the idea of a downtown has changed.
McClure then spoke about his perspective on Main Street in Malvern. He said that beyond Page Street, most of the buildings are occupied, Brown’s Furniture has expanded their showroom, Food Center is reopened, Dr. Teale is rebuilding not remodeling, and the Malvern High School is being rebuilt from the inside. He then said that most people’s focus is on two blocks of Main Street and asked what would work for Main Street? He suggested that it would have to be a niche business that met 2019 and beyond needs in retail or service.
McClure then added that some of the buildings on Main Street would have to meet federal and state safety codes as well as county and city codes. He said the buildings would have to be up to safety code structurally, electrically, for plumbing, heat and air, fire safety, and adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said that this doesn’t include what would need to be done to the walls, ceilings, floors, and street presentation. He provided an example of the cost of remodeling one of the buildings on Main Street. He said a minimum investment of about $250 thousand with a 15 year loan at 5.5 percent would cost the business owner $2,000 a month. He then included property taxes, insurance, inventory, payroll, and other costs of a business. He said that a single owner, working by themselves making a salary of $52 thousand a year would need to make an $8,000 profit every month to survive.
He then moved on to speak about the positives of Main Street. He said that only 10-12 buildings are not occupied and that Malvern is above average in downtown development. He compared Malvern to other cities in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. He did say that the community has work to do. He said that current business owners on Main Street are doing the best they can, but that many people are caught between what was and what is. He also mentioned that Main Street is controlled by the Highway Department because it’s a major highway, Hwy 270 to Page Street and Hwy 9 beyond Page Street.
McClure then finished by referring to the hymn Count Your Blessings. He referred to the lines Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
The Malvern Lions Club meets every Tuesday at noon at Western Sizzlin in Malvern.

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