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NWA EDITORIAL : Thursday’s thumbs

Corporate HQs, preservation seen in different ways

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.

[THUMBS DOWN] 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.

[THUMBS UP] 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.

[THUMBS UP] 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.

[THUMBS DOWN] 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.

[THUMBS UP] Those who advocate for historic preservation do a service to their communities. In the case of the Stone-Hilton 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.

GIVE ’EM A THUMB

Want to give some brief feedback on news? Someone who deserves a pat on the back? An idea that needs a dose of common sense? Recommend a “Thursday thumb” by calling Greg Harton at (479) 872-5026 or by email at gharton@nwadg.com.

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