August 31, 2011 Edition

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LawCo. building owners unveil
'Invest In Your Dreams' program



J.R. Rogers of Walnut Ridge discusses the potential of one of the buildings he owns in downtown Walnut Ridge with Chamber of Commerce Board President Mike Montgomery. Rogers and his wife, Michelle, along with Charles and Jackie Snapp, are the first participants in a new real estate program called "Invest in your Dreams."
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
A new frozen yogurt shop is coming to downtown Walnut Ridge, making it the first business to take advantage of an innovative new program called "Invest In Your Dreams."

The new business will operate in the style of self-service frozen yogurt shops that are popular in other cities, and in the process it will help renovate an older downtown building which has been vacant for years. Such is the purpose of the Invest In Your Dreams program.

The program, which is being coordinated through the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, allows new businesses to operate at considerably reduced rent for several years in exchange for improvements they make to their building.

"Invest In your Dreams allows a business to be vested in a lasting partnership as opposed to a mere rental agreement," noted Chamber Board President Mike Montgomery. "You are rewarded for your physical and financial investment in the property by paying a reduced rate of rent for a designated period of time."

As an example, the new yogurt shop will pay about 50 percent of the normal rent for its location, and in exchange, the shop owner will provide flooring, wall covering, the heat and air system and maintenance costs. After the initial lease period expires, the business operator will have the option of renewing the lease at the standard rent price.

A formal announcement on the frozen yogurt shop will be made later, but it is expected to open in 2012.

The Invest In Your Dreams program requires business operators to invest their own money in renovating a building. A detailed business plan must also be presented to the building owners for approval, as well as plans for the renovation.

The goal is to encourage new businesses to open rather than for businesses already operating in the community to relocate. Therefore, the program stipulates that only new businesses to the area are eligible. The business also must be one that pays sales tax.

Building owners J.R. and Michelle Rogers and Charles and Jackie Snapp have agreed to make their properties available for the program, amounting to nearly a dozen buildings in total. The Chamber hopes other building owners will become involved, as well.

Montgomery said the Snapps developed the idea for Invest In Your Dreams, and he credited them with promoting it to other building owners in the community.

"If properly administered, Invest In Your Dreams will see a much lower turnover rate than traditional businesses, hence creating long-term economic benefits to the business owner, the property owner and the community," Montgomery said.

The program follows on the heels of plans for two tourist attractions, which are being developed by the Chamber's Tourism Committee. A sculpture of The Beatles will be installed next month, and a guitar walk commemorating early rock 'n' roll musicians who once performed in the area is slated for construction next year.

"From the start, our ultimate goal with the tourist attractions has been to spur economic growth in Lawrence County," said Brett Cooper, chair of the Tourism Committee. "We want to attract tourists and tourist dollars to help develop our community. The Invest In Your Dreams program is just one of many positive economic developments we hope to see stemming from the tourism projects."

L.J. Bryant, economic development director with the Chamber, noted, "Tourism projects serve as a beautiful front door to a house full of treasures, the treasures here being our workforce, our transportation infrastructure, our location and our educational institutions."

Those who want more information on the Invest In Your Dreams program should contact Bryant at 870-886-3232 or by e-mail at lawcoecondev@gmail.com.

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