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Finding its True North: Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce unveils plans to lead as city enters new era

Before his death in Oct. of last year, KTLO legend Bob Knight was honored with a proclamation by Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams announcing his birthday as “Bob Knight Day.”

Standing in front of a crowd of his friends and family at City Hall, Knight took the opportunity to speak about what he was witnessing with his beloved community.

“Mountain Home is booming! We are booming, and we aren’t going to let it get away from us.”

Bob Knight, co-owner of KTLO.

And while Knight left Mountain Home and its people for his next journey, his message of a growing and expanding city was carried on during the Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner and Membership Meeting at Arkansas State University – Mountain Home’s Vada Sheid Community Center last Thursday evening.

“This year’s been amazing for Mountain Home,” said Allen Moore, last year’s board president for the Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce. “There’s been plenty of challenges, but we have been so blessed in so many ways. And we don’t have to look very far to realize how blessed we truly are to live in the Twin Lakes area.”

Thursday night’s dinner was jam-packed as representatives from the Chamber’s 557 member organizations sat down for an evening meal while Chamber CEO Dani Pugsley and members of her team gave presentations on the current state of the Chamber and its future economic plans for Mountain Home.

According to the Chamber’s 2021 annual report, 94 businesses joined the Chamber throughout 2021. The Chamber, serving Mountain Home for 70 years, also enjoys an 89% membership retention rate.

The Chamber participated in 33 ribbon cuttings and 17 events during the 2021 year. Under the guidance of Pugsley, Chamber leadership also participated in 212 professional development hours so that Chamber leadership can continue to help and assist businesses as they continue to grow.

“That’s attending any type of conference, workshop, college courses, all of that,” said Dani Pugsley, CEO for the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce. “Between the three of us, we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure that we are knowledgeable and we are ready to lead the chamber.”

The social media presence of the Chamber experienced a boom of its own this year. For Facebook, the Chamber achieved a 70% increase in page reach and had 120,000 users interact with their posts. Their newly created Instagram page came in with a 100% increase in reach and has interacted with 3,500 users.

The Chamber’s email campaign also saw increased success with a 35% open rate for the 130 emails it sent out of 2021.

“On our website, we have 160,000 users,” Pugsley said. “Our page views, with a 38% increase in our users, and we had over 5,000 inquiries to our website this year.”

Like the Chamber and its success last year, the city of Mountain Home and its surrounding areas have also been clocking in some record gains. Since 2019, the sales tax collected has increased by 23%, bringing over $6.1 million to the area.

A total of 180 business licenses were issued over last year, with 350 new jobs created. Real estate for the area has also seen a drastic uptick, with 1,979 real estate transactions occurring over 2021. Those transactions totaled $329 million worth of property sold in one year alone, a 68% increase over the prior year.

Smaller businesses in Mountain Home have also reported in a record year despite the struggles presented by the pandemic. Rapp’s Barren Brewing Company had double cause to celebrate Thursday night after Tripadvisor listed the popular downtown gastropub as the No. 1 brewery in Arkansas.

Major companies like Danfoss, a Denmark-based company with a factory here in Mountain Home, also saw a significant rise in business, even as the world economy shows signs of slowing down.

In his presentation to the Chamber and its members, Brian Ross, plant manager for Danfoss’s Mountain Home factory, revealed that the company had seen 20% growth since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a big myth out there right now that nothing is going on in the world, businesses aren’t doing anything,” said Brian Ross to the packed room. “People aren’t buying, or people aren’t selling. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. I’m sure most of you understand that already, but it’s certainly not true. We’ve seen explosive growth in the last two years. So explosive that we literally can’t keep up with it.”

To keep the momentum going, Pugsley and her leadership team worked with Community Growth Strategies and Jim Fram to develop an action plan for economic development.

The plan, which received input from Mayor Hillrey Adams, Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, and other prominent community leaders, focuses on business attraction and retention, placemaking, and tourism.

For the 2022 year, the Chamber will focus on coveting and promoting the areas existing employer base and work with them to provide a platform for growth and success. They will also make Mountain Home even more attractive for outdoor and recreational retail development.

The renovation of the city’s downtown district will also continue through the Chamber’s Vibrant Downtown Development Program.

Lastly, the Chamber will focus on increasing the number of visitors to Mountain Home and Baxter County.

“According to the International Economic Development Council, better than 85% of your new job growth and new capital investment is going to come from companies, like Danfoss, who are already here in the community,” said Jim Fram, founder of Community Grown Strategies. “People seem to get excited when we recruit a company from the outside to come in, but again, most of your job growth is going to be the companies that are already in your community. So, we put together some tactics that are going to encourage your Chamber staff and your Chamber board to take care of those businesses that are already here.”

The evening dinner also featured a surprise for those in attendance. The Chamber unveiled its new website following a branding presentation from Dave Korinek from Magnetic, a design company based in California.

Over the past few months, the Chamber has slowly rolled out its new logo and design to the public. With the help of VisionAmp Web Design, a local web design and development company, its new website is complete and operational. The Chamber hopes to attract more tourism by giving local businesses, and members access to high-quality promotional content, including photos and videos of Mountain Home and the Twin Lakes area.

Promotional Video Provided by Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce.

The new design theme for the city focused on the concept of “True North” and creating a safe, open, and happy place to live in Mountain Home.

The website features links to visit, relocate and retire in Mountain Home and promotes area activities like hiking, fishing, and camping. A full calendar of all of the year’s events is also available on the new website.

The Chamber also unveiled its new retirement magazine along with its website. The magazine, which lists all of the benefits to retiring in Mountain Home, can be found at the Chamber’s office in Mountain Home.

 “I want you to know that there’s a lot behind where these things drive who you are and who you bring into this community, who you attract to come to visit,” said Dave Korinek of Magnetic. “And one of the things is if we do those things we’re talking about if you live this ‘I got your back mentality,’ you become received as loyal and dedicated. If you live passionately and rooted, you come across as genuine and honest. If you stay humble and curious, you’re seen as open and imaginative. And if you keep it wild, that’s memorable and indelible. It’s something like ‘I have to go back there, there’s something about that place. I got to go get my fix.’”

With its business presentations done, the evening concluded with award presentations for the Chamber’s 2021 nominees in categories like Educator of the Year, Jim Gaston Friend of Tourism, Medical Professional of the Year, and more.

The Chamber also announced a change to its former Spirit Award, which was renamed to the Bob Knight Spirit Award in honor of Knight’s memory. Knight was also awarded the Chairman’s Award posthumously for his contributions to Mountain Home, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.

Bob Knight was a co-owner in the Mountain Lakes Broadcasting Group and served as both president and general manager of KTLO, KCCT Classic Hits, and KBOD 99.7 The Boot. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served as president of the Mountain Home Lions Club, the Baxter County Razorback Club, the Mountain Home Industrial Park Board, and the Mountain Home Planning Commission.

He was a past board member of the Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce, the Baxter Regional Hospital Foundation, and the Arkansas State University-Mountain Home Advisory Board. He also served as a commissioner on the Arkansas Parks Tourism and Travel Commission for 14 years.

His voice played over Mountain Home’s airways for over 40 years. His daughter, Heather Knight-Loftis, accepted the award on his behalf.

“He was so proud of Mountain Home, and he talked about it everywhere he went. Take it with you. Take the momentum of tonight with you,” said Heather Knight-Loftis. “Everything that you are excited about, everything that this staff has worked so hard for—the board of directors. Wear those hats with pride. Talk about Mountain Home every chance you get in every corner of this state. We have something so special here, and it’s no secret any longer. Some of us old-timers remember when we wanted to keep it a secret. I don’t want to keep it a secret any longer. I want Zane Loftis and all of his little friends at school to grow up in an area that they are as proud of as we are.”

Award List

  • Educator of the Year: Beth Ivens
  • Bob Knight Spirit Award: Bob Van Haaren
  • Jim Gaston Friend of Tourism: Mayor Hillrey Adams
  • Outstanding Business of the Year: Rapp’s Barren Brewing Company
  • Outstanding Organization of the Year: The Call of Baxter County
  • Student of the Year: Luke Darracq
  • Volunteer of the Year: Mollie Morgan
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Michael Porting
  • Ambassador of the Year: Carol Bruce
  • Medical Professional of the Year: Stacey Ferretti

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