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The Friday Wire: Drive-in grocery and Beaver Lake water

A new Wal-Mart grocery drive-in experiment, problems at an area non-profit, Beaver Lake water facts and dumb federal policies are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for May 9.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• The 15,000-square-foot experiment
One of the most beautiful structures and spaces in Arkansas is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, but a soon-to-be built structure in Bentonville that looks like a cross between a Sonic Drive-In and an automated car wash will soon be one of the most closely monitored sites in the retail world.

Wal-Mart Stores received approval this week to build a drive-in grocery fulfillment center near the intersection of South Walton Boulevard and J Street. The 15,000 square-foot retail warehouse facility will have 52 parking places with 33 spaces for customers driving through to pick up grocery orders and 19 for employee parking. Also, the facility is expected to house 10,000 fresh and dry grocery products – from cereal, chips and bread to fresh produce, meat and milk.

Wal-Mart officials say the concept will allow consumers to shop online for their grocery items, schedule a pickup time at their convenience then drive up like they would at a Sonic drive-in, call to the associates who then bring their grocery order to car.

The retail world is in the midst of a scramble to figure out how to make the retail experience more convenient among shoppers who use a variety of technologies to compare prices, compare products and compare delivery methods. All those baby boomers who made the supercenter concept work will soon be wholly replaced by generations who are blowing up the supercenter model with their fancy-schmancy smart phones and tablets and iPads and other highly disruptive devices.

This 15,000-square-foot project may not be an answer – and likely will not be THE answer –  to the question of providing convenience to the shopping decision makers of tomorrow. But if it meets certain corporate expectations, don’t be surprised to see hundreds of them pop up around the U.S. and help secure Wal-Mart’s retail leadership for a few more decades.

ICYMI
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...

Whole Foods on for Fayetteville
A project that was all but confirmed thanks to artist's renderings submitted to the city of Fayetteville as part of a planned retail development has now been officially confirmed.

New Arvest poll
Consumer sentiment is a strong factor in economic performance given that household purchases comprise about 70% of the nation’s gross domestic product. National polls like the Thomson/Reuters Michigan Sentiment Survey and the Consumer Sentiment Index are reported monthly. But, Arvest Bank seeks to drill down to a more regional and local reading of consumer sentiment with a poll of its own.

Nonprofit problem
An organization that raised $10,000 at a fundraiser in February is not recognized as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service or as a charitable organization by the state of Arkansas.

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$243.4 million: Expected price that Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Bank will pay to acquire Community First Bancshares based in Union City, Tenn.

45 million: Average number of gallons of water pumped daily from Beaver Lake to a treatment facility in Lowell. For every 100 gallons treated, just one gallon is used for drinking water, the rest goes to maintaining homes and industry across Benton, Washington, Madison and Carroll counties.

$175,000: Starting salary for Randy Massanelli, the newly named University of Arkansas vice chancellor for governmental relations. Richard Hudson, who now holds the vice chancellor position, is retiring July 31.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
Technology and dumb federal policies
Regardless of political persuasion, few who ever visited or tried to use HealthCare.gov after its launch would argue that the Obamacare website was anything other than a colossal acquisition failure. The site wasn’t openly bid. It was limited to companies “pre-qualified” to do IT business for the feds. But the HealthCare.gov fiasco is only the visible tip of the iceberg that is federal government procurement, and notwithstanding the titanic disaster of that experience, neither Congress nor the administration is trying to fix it.

The payday lender debate continues
The demise this week of a Louisiana bill that would have reined in payday lending demonstrates how hard it is for states to regulate the quick loan industry, which consumer groups criticize as a trap for the working poor.

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WORD ON THE WIRE
“When I think about the vision a few men had to create an abundant water supply for this region, it’s amazing. Without it, there is no way our region would have been able to experience the exponential growth it has seen over the past 20 years. Before we had Beaver Lake each town had to find it’s own water source.”
– Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse during the recent ceremony to publicize Drinking Water Week

“Prayer is an important part of my daily life and in the lives of countless Americans and I am thankful the Supreme Court has upheld this core American value.”
– U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in response to the 5-4 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold public prayer as part of a public meeting

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