Thursday, April 17, 2008

Another Institution Moves North

The only remaining office of the United Way in Washington County will close and move to Lowell in Benton County, completing the merger sought by the Benton County United Way after it failed to reach its goal for two consecutive years. They also are going to take the tree planted as a memorial to the late Jo Ann Sandlin, who served as the executive director of the United Way of Fayetteville and of Washington County for nearly 26 years.

Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody said, “I see the need to do that. I hate to see them leave Fayetteville out of a purely provincial perspective, but I understand their need to consolidate and whatever they can do to become even more effective, I’m all for.” Will he be so sanguine if Benton County snags the Northwest Arkansas Museum Foundation's Science Center or if the Walton Arts Center joins the exodus?

Bill Schwyhart of Pinnacle Investments isn't just sitting around watching all this transpire, he's making it happen. He has already submitted to the Rogers Planning Commission a planned-unit development that includes the future Walton Arts Center and a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. He is taking advantage of the UA World Trade Center recently built in Rogers for some unknown reason, and he reportedly has hired Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott's son, Eric Scott, to help him develop business with Chinese vendors. Schwyhart and UA Chancellor John White were in that small group of devoted insiders who enjoyed a private lunch with George Bush during his recent visit to the area, and last year he donated $5,000 to the Republican Party of Arkansas, $2,300 to Boozman for Congress, and $2,300 to Huckabee for President. Connected.

Fayetteville could use such engaged leadership from the business community, but the Cowbirds and Jeff Koenig's FEDC have produced nothing in years. Their idea of community development is helping real estate developers get rich by selling off the high school and building a new one in sprawlville. At times like this, I so miss the vision and vigor of
John Lewis.

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