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Economic Development Outlook: David Cameron

City Administrator, City of Republic

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After 16 years working for the city of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, David Cameron moved in 2016 to Republic, where he serves as city administrator for the town of roughly 17,000 residents.

SBJ: How do you describe the current economic development climate?
Cameron: Extremely rich. It’s a good time to be working with economic development because there is a significant amount of interest. We’ve actually made adjustments within our own organization just to facilitate the number of inquiries we’re receiving each week. The demand is high and filling in the blanks for land use and where they can relocate and build their business. We’re seeing a lot of interest, specifically in Republic, and in the region.

SBJ: What was key to the city securing a 1.3 million-square-foot Amazon warehouse and distribution center and a 230,000-square-foot Convoy of Hope distribution center?
Cameron: Location obviously matters. With James River [Expressway], (Interstate) 44 and even [Highway] 60, you’ve got major access to those points. The Convoy of Hope site was a certified site, so all the information regarding that site was already established. But a lot of it has to come down to the approval process. How quickly can you review a set of plans? How quickly can you accommodate the due diligence of evaluating a site? In economic development, you don’t have windows of three, six, nine, 12 months to make decisions. The quicker you can get through that approval process, the better. What we kind of pride ourselves on is that we have a very quick review process. It just makes it easier for people to see they can turn around a project very quickly.

SBJ: Is the workforce in Republic an adequate size to handle those incoming companies?
Cameron: With Convoy of Hope, they are already structured in Springfield. So it’s really not necessarily new jobs. Their workforce is already established. As for the workforce to sustain Amazon and other projects in the city, they’re looking at where the workforce is going to come from. It’s not going to come from Republic. It’s going to come from Christian, Greene, Lawrence, probably even Dade and maybe even Barry counties. You’re going to have people from all over the region that will drive for those jobs.

SBJ: What are some development trends that will carry over into next year?
Cameron: Commercial and retail are going to continue to grow exponentially. I don’t think it’s just going to be a small trend. It’s something that we’ll look at for the next 18, 24 to 36 months. We don’t see that slowing down whatsoever, especially on the retail side or eating establishments or things of that nature. That’s not something I’m anticipating; it’s something we’re seeing happening.

SBJ: What parts of the city are still target areas for economic development?
Cameron: The west side of town (but) the lion’s share of our work is going to go toward Highway MM, out toward I-44. We’re looking at putting in another $10 million worth of improvements out there to actually open up 500-1,000 more acres of potential development around where the transportation system is. Anywhere you can see James River, I-44 and MM, even [Highway] 60, where you can move commerce, is where we’re going to put the majority of our money. It’s going to be where the transportation system is on MM. This is a great place to grow and expand.

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