WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) – Residents have seen a lot of construction in downtown Walnut Ridge recently, but the projects are doing more than just making the area look better.
Charles Snapp is renovating five buildings downtown and, in the process, helping the local economy by using man power and materials found close to home.
"We had competitive pricing from the locals," Snapp said, "but, even if hadn't been the best price, we wanted to keep the business at home, keep the jobs at home."
Snapp purchased seven buildings along downtown Main Street in August 2011. Two were donated and restructured as a tribute to the Beatles, the "fab four" who famously stopped in Walnut Ridge for a flight in 1964. The other five buildings are set to house small businesses and have employed 10 contractors so far from the Lawrence County area.
"Each of which has at least one employee, some up to eight," Snapp noted about the contractors. "There's been at least two employees added to one of the contractor's firms just because the extra work we're giving here."
Snapp says the jobs created now, however temporary, will allow new businesses to move in and set up shop. A gift store has already opened at the corner of Main Street and Abbey Road, and construction is almost complete on a yogurt shop, a deli and an insurance office.
"While the Beatles may have only been here a small moment, the community's been able to capitalize on that for economic development," L.J. Bryant said.
Bryant is the economic development director for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. He says the Beatles and Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67 have a started a movement in Walnut Ridge, and Snapp and others intend to extend it beyond tourism.
"We'd like to go back to what America used to be, what made it great," Snapp said, "and that's giving entrepreneurs, small business people a chance to open a business, hire a person or two, pay sales tax in. It's a win-win for everybody."