Hot Spring County moves forward with $1.9 million grant

Hot Spring County Judge Dennis Thornton (right) listens as Congressman Bruce Westerman speaks to attendees at a press conference on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at College of the Ouachitas to announce the receipt of a $1.9 million grant to improve the county's existing industrial park.
Gretchen Ritchey
Staff Writer

Moving Hot Spring County Forward, the mission of many in the county.
“We have just begun…,” said County Judge Dennis Thornton at a press conference Wednesday, November 6, 2019 on a grant the county received for $1.9 million. The Economic Development Administration, a branch of the United States Commerce Department approved the grant in the amount of $1.15 million with a matching $770,000 to improve the county’s industrial park and its marketability as an “opportunity zone” for private investment.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Thornton said he was thrilled to see the unified effort by all parties. “It’s exciting to see cross parties working together for the betterment of Hot Spring County,” said Thornton. “Unity spells success!”
Hot Spring County’s Industrial Park is located just off Interstate 30. The area is listed as an opportunity zone, one of 85 tracts in the state. With these improvements the project has the potential to create more than 130 jobs and $15 million in private investments.
Malvern Mayor Brenda Weldon spoke at the conference saying she felt that Malvern has been heading in this direction for many years and it will be a huge investment to have sewer and water at the industrial park, which will make the lots in the park “shovel ready.”
Rick McClure, representing the local Economic Development Council spoke to attendees at the conference about how he believed this was the beginning of something new for the county. The Hot Spring County Industrial Park has a railroad spur, close to Interstate 30 and is within 12 of numerous large cities including Houston, Nashville, Atlanta and St. Louis.
“I look for great things to happen,” said McClure.
“This is a landmark occasion, good things are happening in Malvern all the time,” said Senator Alan Clark. Clark also talked about growing up in a small business family. “I’m pleased to be part of this occasion,” said Clark.
Lt. Governor Tim Griffin visited Malvern on Wednesday for the press conference saying that there was no specific ingredient to economic development, however the important things were education, quality of life, work force. He said Hot Spring County was taking the right steps in securing its future by taking the burden off industries and making the industrial park more desirable. “Location is very important,” Griffin said. “A lot of community would do anything to have a railroad spur and the interstate near their industrial park. You have a lot of built in advantages.”
Congressman Bruce Westerman told attendees it was “a good day in Hot Spring County.” He also spoke about SRF revolving loans and how these loans could help with various projects such as water and sewer.
Economic Development Administration representative Jason Wilson also spoke about the beautiful landscape he witnessed as he traveled through the Ouachita River enroute to the press conference
Thornton concluded the conference by stating that “when the opportunity calls, Hot Spring County will be ready to answer.”
“I want to see Hot Spring County a better place to live, work and play,” said Thornton.
The funding announced goes to a designated Opportunity Zone, created by President Donald J. Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically-distressed communities nationwide. In June 2019, EDA added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority, which increases the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to fuel greater public investment in these areas. To learn more about the Opportunity Zone program. To learn more about the Commerce Department’s work in Opportunity Zones, please visit EDA’s Opportunity Zones webpage at