Crystal Bridges Seen Expanding Tourism in Region

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 15, 2010 12:00 am  

One industry in northwest Arkansas that observers expect to expand is tourism.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which is the pet project of Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, is guaranteed to draw people to the area. It has a price tag of more than $300 million and assets of about $500 million. An opening date hasn't been announced.

The Northwest Arkansas Council has recently hired a consultant to develop a long-range plan for the region, said Executive Director Mike Malone. He said it had been 10 years since the area had looked at the "regional strengths and weaknesses and opportunities.

"We've still got good growth, but it's not the rapid run-up that we saw over the last decade or even 15 years," Malone said.

Market Street Services of Atlanta is doing the study, which should be completed by July, he said. Malone declined to say what the report would cost.

Malone said the area had a potential for growth in health care and in green industries.

But the key change will come with the opening of Crystal Bridges, he said. "We're developing a whole new cultural experience in northwest Arkansas because of Crystal Bridges," Malone said.

Crystal Bridges will give northwest Arkansas the opportunity to attract more tourists and restaurants, he said.

"For a long time, we've been known as where the world comes to do business," Malone said. "And we hope now it will be where the world spends their time in addition to doing business. It's a very different environment for us."

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