Through most of its history, downtown was a major destination for tourism and economic activity within Hot Springs. Its proximity to Hot Springs National Park (the first in the nation) and the presence of Bathhouse Row drew visitors to the region for over a century. But, over time, downtown Hot Springs lost much of its luster. The city’s historic structures were in need of investment; ground-floor retail space was underutilized; and the upper stories for most buildings remained vacant. Moreover, development sites for industrial recruitment were limited within Hot Springs and the immediate surrounding area, due to topographic and access constraints.
The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce/Garland County Economic Development Corporation hired TIP Strategies to craft a new economic development strategic plan for Garland County and the surrounding region. The rationale for a regional approach was due to the recognition that the greater region’s economic health is largely dependent on Hot Springs’ success. TIP assembled a team that considered not only economic development strategies but also marketing and fundraising elements for the chamber. The result of an intense year-long effort was a detailed assessment of specific projects and development options, new target industries for recruitment, an entrepreneurship strategy, and quality of life amenities. The strategies sought to 1) re-energize downtown Hot Springs; 2) develop new business sites and coordinate economic development regionwide; 3) advance cluster development through entrepreneurship and targeted business recruitment; and 4) enhance Hot Springs’ quality of place and talent pool.