The City of Van Buren has found a way to bring its past into the present to form a community for future generations to enjoy. Recognized as one of the state’s oldest cities, this vibrant town capitalizes on its unique location, historic charm, and diverse industries.
Nowhere is the blend of old and new more evident than in Downtown Van Buren. New restaurants such as Pasta Grill and The Vault 1905 Sports Grill have added to the eclectic mix of eateries and coffee shops in the area. Freedom Park boasts two large pavilions for hosting various community functions, and a summer splash pad. The amphitheater routinely hosts free outdoor movies and concerts. Across the street from Freedom Park sits Veterans Park, which honors those who have served in the military. Recent grants have also helped transform the sidewalks and landscaping along Main Street.
Well-established partnerships are also paving the way for continued growth. The Van Buren School District works closely with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to enhance students’ overall experience and establish a well-trained future workforce. Recently, the VBSD Foundation (created in 2001) celebrated a milestone of raising and donating over $1,000,000 back to the district for classroom grants and school projects. VBSD also partners with Pearson Education to offer and oversee River Valley Virtual Academy -offering online curriculum for students to accomplish and graduate as a VBHS alum, virtually.
In partnership with the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD), Crawford County (of which Van Buren is county seat) became the first county in the western half of Arkansas to participate in the valuable workforce assessment program, ACT Work Ready. The initiative’s purpose is to promote the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) Program as a county-wide effort to prepare the workforce for current and future needs. The ACT WorkKeys NCRC is an example of a career readiness credential that ties people, business, and communities together by helping the local workforce gain the right skills for the right job. Van Buren Students have the opportunity twice a year to learn about skilled trades through the state chamber’s “Be Pro. Be Proud.” initiative. VBSD students can also earn hours, certifications, and degrees through concurrent credit programs with Arkansas Tech University-Ozark and the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.
Van Buren’s unique location has benefitted its industries since the town’s incorporation in 1845. Millions of pounds of freight are shipped annually along the river into the Port of Van Buren, with talks for an additional port and new intermodal facility currently taking place. The city is further strengthened by its railway lines and its proximity to two major Interstates, I-40/540 and I-49. Such factors have contributed to continued growth in Van Buren’s manufacturing, agricultural, and other sectors. City and Chamber leaders work closely with organizations, such as the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD), on a strategic business retention and expansion plan that further capitalizes on this unique opportunity from the state.
Van Buren offers potential investors helpful incentives for development along its thriving Opportunity Zone. The zone consists of 7,200 acres and encompasses the city’s Industrial Park. The 126-acre Industrial Park is home to numerous thriving companies including USA Truck, Tyson Foods, Simmons Foods, and AFCO Steel. The Opportunity Zone extends beyond the industrial park to include land available for commercial and residential development. Location, schools, amenities, and opportunities for growth are the foundational factors behind Van Buren’s openness for industry.