The city of Benton director of community and economic development is using the lessons he learned recently to look prepare Benton to keep growing for decades to come.
Brad Jordan and community leaders from around Saline County traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, as part of a Metroplan retreat to learn more about what that city has done over the previous decades to improve itself.
While he does enjoy being able to cut the ribbon on new developments to improve the quality of life in Benton, he also understands the importance of laying the groundwork for projects that today's children may compete when they are the ones running the city.
"We have got to start thinking about what Benton can be in 40 years," Jordan said.
One example he learned during his recent trip was that Greenville had an interstate running through the middle of downtown. They had a beautiful waterfall also in the middle of town that the interstate was taking away from.
The city made the decision that the interstate needed to relocate.
They realized people would enjoy it later on but they needed buy in on the longterm goal and to spend millions of dollars to make that happen.
Now the city has the waterfall and walking trails. There is quite a bit of new construction going up. All this has improved the city and benefited the people.
Another example he gave was the city planted trees that have now created a canopy of shade, but before that canopy could develop the trees were just saplings along the street.
One of Greenville's successes Jordan hopes to duplicate is the growth around its trail systems with Benton's portion of the Southwest Trail. He said the trail system helped the area's economy explode. He liked Greenville's connectivity and walkability.
He hopes to see the changes in the next five years.
Jordan said the city is already seeing growth.
"We have new businesses coming in here all the time," he said, adding even when businesses leave new ones quickly take their place.
"We have formed a reputation over the last few years of being business friendly."
Lost Pizza will be coming in where Silos Cafe was.
Hideaway Pizza will be filling out the last open build site in the Shoppes of Benton. Panda Express and Newk's Cafe will be filling in the remaining shops at the Hurricane Village Shopping Center.
He said the expansion of CoorsTek is important. The city is woking to bring in more national manufacturing.
Not only do the businesses coming in help the city's tax base, Jordan said more importantly it provides well-paying jobs in the community.
His dream is for people to work in Saline County and not have anyone in the community have to travel to Little Rock for work.
One of the ways the city is working to make Benton a better place to live and work is with Downtown events such as Third Thursday, which were held in partnership with the Downtown Benton Business Owners Association.
He credits Tina Coston, executive assistant to Mayor Tom Farmer and marketing director, with much of the monthly event's success.
"She has such a heart for our community and does so much and doesn't ask for credit," Jordan said.
The city has also partnered with the Benton Parks and Recreation Department for the event.
He feels Third Thursday and other events have been great ways to introduce Downtown Benton to the next generation.
Jordan believes Farmer's leadership is going a long way to pushing Benton's growth. He said the administration has been living by the motto "together we can do more" since the first day of Farmer's administration.
One of the projects Jordan is most excited about is the renovation of the Palace Theater. When it is complete, Shawn Hipskin, the man renovating the Palace, plans to have Baja Cafe, another small restaurant and an axe throwing area, plus loft apartments upstairs. He added that will be another way Benton can move to being more like Greenville, where all their downtown properties are mixed use.
He believes the Palace is going to be the linchpin to Downtown's revitalization and he is grateful for all the businesses, like Paradise Pets, who have stuck with Downtown and fought for it.
Jordan is excited for everything that is happening in Benton and all the growth that is yet to come.
"I'm just lucky enough to be sitting here at this time," he said.