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Building on the border: Siloam Springs is home to a multimillion-dollar construction project list.

Siloam Springs is about as far northwest as you can go in Arkansas.

But it is a center of construction activity.

The city of 8,151 residents on the Oklahoma border saw building permits for $7.63 million of construction work issued last year.

There was supposed to be a recession on.

For Siloam Springs, however, it was the most construction activity in at least five years.

What made the activity even more unusual was the fact that the city's population increased by only 231 residents during the 1980s.

"Growth is deceiving because it isn't always reflected in the census count," says Jim Corl, Siloam Springs' city administrator.

The most population growth was in unincorporated areas near Siloam Springs. Those northwest Arkansas residents don't show up on the city's population signs, but they do show up in the trade area population of 74,975.

The consumers are ringing up annual retail sales of more than $100 million in Siloam Springs. They were the driving force behind 24 small businesses that opened last year in the city. The new arrivals consisted of service-oriented shops, restaurants and retail stores.

An egg-processing facility and an Econo Lodge motel are among the current construction projects.

City officials divide building activity into five categories. Totals for last year were $2.72 million for new commercial construction, $2.47 million for new residential construction, $1.64 million for additions, $809,000 for other forms of construction and $8,000 for industrial construction.

Construction activity in Siloam Springs totaled $6 million in 1990, $4.6 million in 1989, $5.2 million in 1988 and $7 million in 1987.

One of the largest new developments is the city's $6.5 million water-supply project, which is scheduled to be completed by June. The 160-acre development will include three reservoirs that will contain 660 million gallons of water.

A $150,000 project to improve the city's water pipelines and a $210,000 sewer-renovation project also are nearing completion.

The city soon will take bids on an estimated $2.1 million plan to upgrade its water-treatment plant and a $750,000 water intake on the Illinois River. Both projects are scheduled for completion in July 1993.

In addition, a $400,000 electrical substation is planned for the city-owned electric company.

Paving The Way

The planned widening of U.S. 412 from Siloam Springs to Springdale is spurring additional activity. But city fathers view the multimillion-dollar highway project as a mixed blessing.

The increased traffic will bring more commerce. But it also will strain the city's infrastructure.

Many Siloam Springs residents, protective of the area's quality of life, are wary of growing too fast, as has been the case in other parts of Benton County.

With an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, though, the area is attractive to outsiders. It was only nine months ago that Essex Group Inc. shut down a plant that produced communication cable and laid off 150 employees. But Arkansas Molded Plastics, a subsidiary of Custom Molded Plastics of Durant, Okla., moved into the 210,000-SF facility in October. The plant will have 80 employees and produce lawn chairs.

Other major employers in Siloam Springs are:

* Simmons Industries Inc., which produces poultry products and has 992 employees.

* Franklin Electric Co., which produces submersible electric motors and has 590 employees.

* Gates Rubber Co., which produces automotive and industrial belts and has 634 employees.

* Allen Canning Co., which cans vegetables and has 400 employees.

* Outreach Publications, which produces Christian greeting cards and has 300 employees.

* La-Z-Boy of Arkansas, which produces sleepers and sofas and has 275 employees.

* Cobb-Vantress Inc., which supplies broiler parent stock and has 150 employees.

* Byron Valve & Machine Co., which produces air-conditioning valves, refrigeration valves and hydraulic valves. The company has 114 employees.

* Webb Wheel Products Inc., which produces truck and trailer brake drums and has 96 employees.

* Jet Stream Plastic Pipe Co., which produces plastic pipe and has 75 employees.

The city is hoping to attract additional jobs through tourism. A new $300,000 tourist information center will be housed in a former Kansas City Southern Railroad depot.

Additional construction projects are likely after the four-lane Springdale-to-Tulsa, Okla., link is established along U.S. 412.

"That is going to become a strong growth corridor," says Dan Nabholz, chief executive officer of Nabholz Construction Corp.

The Conway-based contractor is involved with five Siloam Springs developments worth an estimated $7.4 million.

Recent Nabholz projects at Siloam Springs include an 8,000-SF renovation for John Brown University's music department in the Cathedral of the Ozarks and a 5,500-SF IGA Foodliner expansion. Construction of a 15,000-SF corporate headquarters for Simmons is scheduled to begin in May. The Simmons building was designed by nationally known architect Fay Jones of Fayetteville.

Nabholz recently completed a 20,980-SF corporate office expansion for Allen and broke ground on the $925,000 Siloam Springs Child Development Center, which will open in September. Private businesses are footing most of the bill for the 24-hour co-op facility. The 14,550-SF project will have 24 staffers and a capacity for 175 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years.

The development will house a Head Start program and a latchkey program. It also will include a 14-person elder care unit. The five-acre site was donated by the city and Siloam Springs' Adult Development Center.

The concept originated several years ago during a leadership conference sponsored by the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce.

"Good people make good things happen, and we're blessed with a wealth of good people," Corl says of the joint effort.

Good people or not, there are no signs of the construction boom slowing at Siloam Springs.
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Title Annotation:Raising Steel, part 2; City of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; industrial construction projects
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Mar 29, 1992
Previous Article:Premium price: rising workmen's compensation costs nail contractors.
Next Article:Safety never suffers: Conway construction company dedicated to the idea of avoiding accidents.

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