Derrell Hartwick became president and CEO of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce in November. In 2013, Hartwick became tourism manager for the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau and later worked as director of sales for the Little Rock Regional Chamber. After earning his International Economic Development Council Mid-South Economic Development degree, Hartwick took over as president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce in Idaho from 2019-2021.
A North Little Rock High School graduate, Hartwick earned his bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Arkansas. Hartwick, the son of North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick, spent three years with the Razorbacks football team and one year with the Razorbacks cheer team.
How do you market North Little Rock to businesses?
It’s all about relationships. A lot of it is word of mouth with site selectors who know how business-friendly and excellent the quality of life is in North Little Rock. We also partner with the North Little Rock economic development team to promote our city. In addition, we are also a member of the 12-county coalition the Metro Little Rock Alliance.
What is the city’s biggest challenge in attracting new businesses? What are businesses that come to NLR attracted to the most?
Infrastructure. We have had to expand our city’s options into farmland. When we talk to companies looking to move here or expand, they love our quality of life in North Little Rock. Burns Park and the Argenta Arts District are excellent examples of that and how good our public safety and schools are. As you can see, North Little Rock takes pride in all these areas and is committed to keeping that high standard. It is shown by the growth we have had recently and for what is to come.
How important was it to North Little Rock to keep the Arkansas Travelers?
Our chamber felt it was important to keep the Arkansas Travelers in North Little Rock. The Travelers have a rich history in our state and continue bringing people from all over our state to North Little Rock. The Travelers average 350,000 visitors annually, supporting many of our local businesses downtown. You can see the growth in our downtown since the ballpark opened. In 2006 the effort to bring them to this side of the river was led by the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and the city of North Little Rock. We are proud they call North Little Rock home.
What do you hope to see in downtown North Little Rock in the coming years?
There is so much opportunity for growth and investment in every part of North Little Rock. Our downtown is perfect for an entertainment venue complementing Simmons Bank Arena. Also, I don’t think I am alone when saying we are an excellent place for a conference center/hotel where you have the option to bring in outside catering. The chamber gets multiple calls about conferences and events wanting to stay in North Little Rock, but we have to direct them to other local venues because we do not have a space that can hold 700-1,000 people. That’s a lot of commerce we are missing out on.
Are there any particular types of businesses that the city is suited to?
Our North Little Rock community is very supportive of any local business, as shown in our city leadership’s investment in support of our business community over the past few administrations. Also, we are perfect for logistics, distribution and manufacturing. ... We all love to talk about new things, but at the North Little Rock Chamber, we feel it is just as important to listen and help our business that currently calls North Little Rock home.
It’ll be a year on the job for you in November. What did you learn in that first year?
Well, two things stand out. First, how much it means to work daily for the community that helped raise you. It is hard to put into words. After working for chambers in different cities or states, you always feel a sense of pride in your work as a chamber of commerce professional. Chambers do so much good for the town they are in. But when it is your hometown, it does feel different. North Little Rock has always been special because of the people and businesses here. How can you not want to be the best every day when that is how our city operates? Secondly, having a great team makes all the difference, and I am fortunate to work with the best at the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
It is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.