Scott County is currently seeking ways to fill the void left by the exit of Wal-Mart. Part of any economic evaluation process is recognizing what is already working. This local evaluation process includes the recognition of one of Scott County's best kept economic secrets - the golf course at Waldron Country Club (WCC).
According to economic checklists, the value of a well-maintained golf course is its attraction to companies looking for quality of life benefits for employees, people looking for a place to retire, and families looking for vacation activities.
Recent golfers playing at Waldron Country Club include vacationers who were camping at Lake Hinkle, two brothers from Pennsylvania who were visiting their parents in Mansfield and a tourist from Canada who was traveling through the area.
Waldron Country Club is an 88 member-owned golf club which was established in 1983. The first members were Rena and Johnnie Owens. For 34 years it has been a favorite course for members and non-members of all ages and skill levels.
In addition to being a potential magnet for companies, retirees and vacationers, Waldron Country Club provides an economic boost to Scott County. By using economic multipliers for the direct, indirect and induced impact of a locally-owned small business, the conservative estimate is the local golf course pumps $100,000 each year into the local economy.
Local dollars spent by a local business tend to re-circulate multiple times within a community. The current formula to determine the impact of a small business is to multiply the dollars spent by anywhere from 1.6 to 3 times. For many years, the accepted formula to determine the impact of a small business was to multiply the dollars spent by 7.
Dr. Krystal Thrailkill, Vice Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Rich Mountain, made the following observation about Waldron Country Club's contributions to the Scott County economy, "WCC adds to the local economy much like a small local pharmacy which receives revenue from its customers, deposits those in a local bank, and the bank makes local loans based on those deposits. Banks are required to make local loans because of the Community Reinvestment Act."
Dr. Thrailkill continued by saying, "Additionally, employees are paid in local dollars. If they shop locally, and not at chain retailers, those dollars stay in the community unless the owners start making purchases out of town. Of course, local owners tend to go to other local owners because they know what shopping at a small business does for all who own one."
The monthly expenditures for Waldron Country Club and other local businesses may be small compared to a major company like Walmart; but, economic research shows local-owned businesses have a higher rate of re-circulation of local dollars than chain-owned businesses.
In the winter of 2016-2017, Waldron Country Club's monthly expenditures were $4,300. In July of this year, the monthly expenditure was $5,418. The monthly expenditures include the costs of such things as wages, taxes, utilities, insurance, repairs, food and drinks for resale, office supplies, and gasoline.
In addition to the money the Waldron Country Club directly and indirectly puts into the Scott County economy, non-tournament and tournament golfers who play at WCC spend money at local-owned businesses. This money would be part of the multiplier for the induced impact of the local golf course.
The July 29-30 Scott County Boys and Girls Club benefit tournament had 81 registered players. This is 162 rounds of golf in one weekend. The out-of-town golfers who come into Waldron for any of WCC's two-day golf tournaments buy gasoline and food and several golfers always stay overnight in the local motels.
Non-tournament golfers regularly spend money with local-owned businesses.
For example, Oswald's is used by several WCC members for the maintenance of their golf carts. Another example is provided by a WCC member from Mena. She and her out-of-town golfing buddies regularly have breakfast or lunch at Judy's Diner or The Charbroiler when they play the local course. For this group of women golfers, Waldron has become a year-round staycation destination.
Sandy Standerfer, the recently retired long-time manager of the Waldron Country Club, estimates 4,000 rounds of golf are played annually at WCC by members and non-members. "Even as hot as it was on Thursday, July 27, over 25 golfers played the course," said Standerfer.
Across America, many rural golf courses have closed since the Great Recession. According to Derek Owens, the current president of the WCC Board, the local golf course has been able to keep its doors open because of the dedicated members who have made generous donations of labor, goods, and money whenever there is a need. "This can-do spirit continues to be a vital part of what keeps WCC alive and well, no matter what turn the economy takes," said Owens.
Jean Solomon, a native of Waldron and a long-time club member, recently wrote on the WCC Facebook page, "The course is well maintained. Waldron and Scott County are really lucky to have something this nice for people to enjoy. Golfing is a sport that can be played at any age. You're missing out if you're not coming to play."