Devin HowlandDevin Howland is the Director of Economic Vitality for the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The city’s department focuses on economic mobility and equity through workforce development and small business growth and support. In his role, Devin oversees and manages the municipality’s economic development efforts. 

Before working for the City of Fayetteville, he served as the Economic Developer for the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District, where he led recovery efforts following a tornado. Devin is also a certified economic developer with the International Economic Development Council.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Devin Howland talks about the housing market in Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • How Fayetteville’s government facilitates housing and economic development
  • What are the tax rates in Fayetteville, and how do they impact development efforts?
  • Devin explains the city’s high-density housing plans
  • How other cities are creating affordable housing
  • The importance of prioritizing infrastructure growth
  • Fayetteville’s annual inbound population

In this episode…

Real estate prices are rising, and affordable housing is becoming scarce, especially among first-time home buyers and low-income families in urban cities. So, how are cities addressing this pressing issue, and what can you glean from their efforts?

Fayetteville, Arkansas is considered one of the fastest-growing cities and has been named one of the best places to live in the country. To maintain this status, the economic department has executed high-density housing projects in areas with notable growth potential. However, this requires extensive planning and resource analytics. Therefore, the city has prioritized each development endeavor, from infrastructure maintenance to transportation, to ensure sufficient funds. Other cities, such as Denver, Colorado and Austin, Texas, have utilized density bonuses to increase affordable housing units in designated areas.

In today’s episode of The Same Day Podcast, Mat Zalk hosts Devin Howland, Director of Economic Vitality for Fayetteville, Arkansas, to address housing disparities and economic development. Devin talks about how Fayetteville’s government facilitates housing and economic development, how the city’s tax rates impact development, and the importance of prioritizing infrastructure growth.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Keyrenter Property Management.

Keyrenter Property Management is a full-service property management company who helps their clients buy, renovate, and operate real estate assets.

They help clients build wealth while taking the headache out of property management.

That’s why, no matter what rental you have — single-family homes, condos, townhomes, or apartments — they can give you the management solutions you need.

To learn more about their services, go to or send them an email at [email protected].

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:05

Welcome to The Same Day Podcast where we discuss driving incremental business growth and other topics related to real estate, property management and entrepreneurship. Now to the show at hand.

Mat Zalk 0:20

Mat Zalk. I’m the host of The Same Day Podcast where I connect with top business experts in real estate leaders. A couple of past guests that we’ve had on the podcast that might be interesting to you Mike Basch Atento Capital is doing some great stuff in both Tulsa and the northwest Arkansas area, helping to promote general growth business and some some fun employment stuff along with the the growth and seeding of, of new businesses. We’ve also had Chip Gaberino of Topeka coffee and a bunch of other restaurants and some fun commercial real estate Downtown Tulsa that’s that was on recently. Great podcasts you want to go back and listen to him. Today’s episode is brought to you by Keyrenter Property Management at Keyrenter Property Management. We’re a full service property management company helping our clients buy, renovate and operate real estate assets. We help our clients build wealth, we’ll take the headache out of property management. Listen, Devin, you don’t quite know this. But we do a lot of renovation work for for underserved communities, specific geographic communities. I shouldn’t I shouldn’t say communities like people necessarily, although we do work with a ton of folks through Catholic Charities in the synagogue, helping to place the Afghan refugees, the Burmese refugees, the Rohingya etc. So that’s also fun, but my boss was a good case example. He did a great deal. He bought a three Plex for $25,000 out of $100,000 in renovation with Keyrenter and and brought rents to $2,200 a month in total, that’s quality workforce housing, three units 2200 hours a day six to $800 a unit and we revitalized a boarded up blighted house and and he’s got a solid return to boot. So it was fun doing that project with him and I think he’s excited about the overall return on that. That is why no matter what rental you have single family homes, condos, townhomes apartments, we have the management solutions that you need go to or [email protected] Our guest today Devin Howland was introduced to me by Aaron Miller in Tulsa, who’s doing some fun economic development work, actually, he’s helping recruit in Tulsa, for people for companies that are looking to hire folks in the technology space, generally that are not here in Tulsa, and might be interested in coming here for companies that Mike Basch is seeding oftentimes that need have significant recruitment needs in the technology, space and other spaces. Devin is the economic vitality director for the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of the fastest growing and consistently named best places to live in the country. That is impressive. And we spent a lot of time in Fayetteville and it is awesome. It is an awesome place in Northwest Arkansas. Great Devin’s passions include economic mobility and equity through workforce training and urban development. He’s also a certified economic developer with the International Economic Development Council. Devin, thank you for being on today.

Devin Howland 3:03

Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Mat Zalk 3:05

So Aaron introduced us and he was telling me you’re doing some great things in Fayetteville, he he put it in the context, generally of there’s a lack of housing, generally speaking in Fayetteville. There’s a lack of affordable housing, specifically, maybe not lack of housing, you can talk to us about that. But lack of affordable housing specifically. I guess my question to you is, is there Do you have a sense of what the actual lack is at this point of affordable housing in Fayetteville?

Devin Howland 3:34

Oh, well, affordable is a relative term. And it depends on who you ask. And you know, that’s something that we grapple with. And even the definition of workforce housing, there’s not an agreed upon term. And so we stick with what HUDs is, and I believe that’s 30% of AMI could be wrong, correct me if you know,

Mat Zalk 3:51

we generally talked about it as I think in Tulsa before COVID. I knew it before COVID, who was working with the city, but it was like 800 to $1,100. So that’s probably that’s probably a median AGI in Tulsa. Or that’s probably Yeah, relative to meet into the AGI in Tulsa.

Devin Howland 4:06

Absolutely. And so one of the things that we’re looking at as we’re trying to get an asset, an accurate unit count, we’ve actually been and we’re updating our economic development master plan right now. And one of the unique aspects of Fayetteville. I’ve been fortunate enough. I’ve worked with a lot of cities. I’ve never worked in a place like Fayetteville. And I think it’s just a testament to this administration. But if it goes into a master plan, it’s going to get done. And so these documents are important. They’re contentious because people know they get implemented. Yeah. And it’s not just some whimsical wish list of actions that Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if you know we just throw a bunch of seven storey buildings down a road that we want to redevelop? They influence a lot of money they influence rezoning decisions development, entitlements, etc. So housing is an economic development issue is something that is relatively new for me. Because I remember I’ll just a little personal story. worry about some of the costs. I moved here from Little Rock, Arkansas in 2017. And I had a foreclosure that I was fortunate enough My in laws or commercial real estate or residential and commercial real estate investors bought two rental properties. So very familiar with this world. And they appointed us to foreclosure. We made a lot of money on that house, it was a great start for our family doing that, but I sold it for $77 a foot and I came up here and I remember sitting at title company wanting to vomit because I signed for 204 foot. And I actually made the newspaper. And it says this Joker and his wife, Devin Howland, signed for 204 foot in downtown Fayetteville, and now cops are 400. And so it’s looking at this and it’s even higher if towards towards Bentonville, etc. And, you know, you know, and as a professional, it’s this weird conundrum because I’m personally you’re like, wow, cool. Look at all this equity I’ve got. And professionally it’s a nightmare, just from a workforce housing standpoint, and wanting the people that make this city so incredible. And that’s you know, those are the people that are working in the service industry and the bars and the restaurants they want to live close to you know, Fayetteville has goals on being very cognizant towards climate Well, if they have to go or if they have to live out in West Fork, Arkansas, which is about 30 minutes down the road. They’re adding mileage in their insurance rotation cost. It’s so counterproductive. So I don’t have an accurate count. We Wilson, we’re doing that odd inventory. There was a massive study that the Center for Business and Economic Research just reached out and even if you’re you know, in Oklahoma, I would challenge you to take a look at this study about what’s going on in this corridor. Home prices are up 27% Compared to last year, it’s 383,000 is the median price. The report talks about and I think the author of the report, dear friend and colleague Mervyn Jeb barrage, he said it best. We are losing that competitive advantage we have on affordability. And it’s going to be gone quicker than we ever thought if this keeps up. What’s happening over here is utterly remarkable on the development we’re seeing, but the housing costs and what it’s doing here. I think it’s going to keep a lot of people out, we’re clearly going to see displacement. Of course, any community does see that, but how we address that as the city is something I’m really excited about and excited to talk more with you about.

Mat Zalk 7:33

Yeah, so how are you addressing it?

Devin Howland 7:36

So our first plan of attack, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of growth note. And if you look at a city like Austin Austin did this very well. But going back to the Live Oak, you saw my background earlier when I joined on Zoom, if you’ve been to Savannah,

Mat Zalk 7:52

I have been to Savannah, I love Savannah. So So

Devin Howland 7:55

Vana, you know, they’ve got, I believe, 14 to 16 squares. They have these little pockets all over their city where people want to be is desirous development areas. Well, in Fayetteville people want to locate in two places downtown. And then uptown is our, you know, much more heavy auto oriented development in the northern part of the city. But we’re seeing a lot of dense housing there, especially on the student and workforce side. It’s very quick, much closer to the interstate than our downtown Fayetteville has a really unique development pattern. Because you know, it’s often said and you know, we’ve had former council members say, they’ll get rich the wrong time. However, back then it was the right time. So we look at it we developed along Highway, highway 71 B, not the interstate quarter. So we don’t have heavy development towards the interstate as like a Rogers does a Springdale does, etc. Furthermore, we’re further challenged by the hills. And so one of the things about these places like an Austin in the savanna, it’s not just downtown, you have so many of these incredible neighborhoods, you have these little pockets. And within these pockets, not only do you have services, but you know our city plan 2040 are guiding land use plan and that land use plan for those that aren’t familiar. That’s what governs zoning of property. That’s what governs entitlements that you may or may not have on properties that your investment properties may be on your personal home either. And if you’re not familiar, I would really encourage you to get familiar with your zoning codes because they dictate what you can and cannot do. And one of the things that we’re trying to do is what we call growth, concept oriented development. And it’s something I’m really, really excited about, but it’s this idea that, you know, we can have these pockets of density where development and entitlements are higher, where goods and service accesses are within walking distance. This is where we can have transit stops, etc. And to do that, what can we as the government do to influence that? Well, how do we entice the private sector to follow you know, you hear a joke, you could just call it an arch district and all of a sudden you’re gonna see investment roll down it, but we have one of those two. But a little bit different. But one of the things that we’re looking at can we coordinate across, you know, infrastructure, can we coordinate across a protected land through entitlements. So when I say protected land, I’m talking about higher and type. So when I give you more density, because I want you to be able to build up Fayetteville doesn’t have Fayetteville abolished commercial parking minimums, or like, I think we’re the only city in Arkansas that has that. And we’re, there’s communities across the country that have done it, not as many as one would think. But

Mat Zalk 10:37

what does it actually mean? It means when you put it when you put commercial development somewhere, you don’t have to have a certain number of spots per square foot of, of space.

Devin Howland 10:44

Okay. Absolutely. Yeah. And so, you know, there’s people that love that there’s people that dislike it as an urban development guy that loves urban places. I love that because downtown’s can’t be downtown if you had those parking requirements. And so it really gets to the point that, you know, are we people are precious are we going up there people are parking. So looking at these growth nodes, we the city, our land use plan identified about a dozen these areas, key intersections, etc, that, you know, had close amenities within parks or our trail systems. But it also helped us identify gaps to go, Okay, how now, can we entice development to come in there? And so starting with entitlements, but also from the government side, and we’ll talk more about affordable housing, get back into the question, what else can we do to control that narrative or control that market? Well, we can buy land to, and if we buy the land, we can control the land, we can send it out for RFPs, etc. And this isn’t novel cities across the country do this, yet, you may only see it for stadiums are these bigger economic development projects, yet? You go out west and you get the plane states in Colorado, they do this for housing all the time. It’s nothing new for them yet. For us, you know, land and infrastructure access. And you know those entitlements, those when it comes to driving housing, at least in the state of Arkansas, those are the tools we have. We are very much a we’re sales tax dependent state unlike a Texas, I’m not familiar when I should be, but Oklahoma you heavy property or sales tax?

Mat Zalk 12:24

You know what I we have a good mix. I mean, I think I actually don’t really answer that question. But I know we pay a lot of property tax, we’re certainly not as bad as Texas, Texas is a heavy, heavy property tax state. And I don’t how would you actually determine that we pay? Oh, boy, I don’t even how much we pay with the millage rates would be on property tax. I mean, it’s never been an issue for us when we think about investing in low income housing. Or when we focus Yeah, it’s never really been an issue. But I know we pay, you know, eight or 9% sales tax in we do pay hefty visa vie Colorado, for example. We pay huge, huge property taxes, but I don’t think we’re nearly as high as

Devin Howland 12:58

Texas. Yeah, we have an extremely low property tax rate. It’s almost laughable when you look at it. And there’s laws that have come that have come to these their state laws that have cut the what that property tax can and cannot be used for. And

Mat Zalk 13:14

why did they do that? Why did they why did they limit the overall property taxes it’s not like a California where you have to do it when people can’t it’s like unaffordable to move once you move because you have to pay crazy property taxes or your house has gone up 600 times in value, and you can’t live there anymore because the property tax, or is that the case?

Devin Howland 13:32

You know, in Arkansas, I think the tax structure this is a very conservative state. And you’ve seen that over a Fayetteville is very progressive community, you know, often like to joke that we’re a blueberry and a tomato patch. And that is so true. It’s not a bad thing. It’s, I live here for a reason I will work for this place for a reason. But you look at when you have that though, you have low property taxes and our sales tax rates 9.75%. I think it just kicked up to 10.25%. And so people get shocked when they see that yet. When you do the math and you balance it across the Texas, it comes out really close when you think about cost of living etc. Where are however, excuse me, when I get to that though sales tax driven, we can’t run. We can’t run tests in Arkansas. Tax Increment Financing is a huge tool that, you know, my colleagues and nearly every other state can use. They’re illegal in Arkansas. They’re illegal. Correct,

Mat Zalk 14:32

was that the state legislation just said basically, we don’t want to be given tax revenue away

Devin Howland 14:38

with holding it long story short, some were tried here. It didn’t work. And they backfired and failed. And the state legislature said you know no more.

Mat Zalk 14:46

So you’re really limiting the tools that you can use for for promoting economic development

Devin Howland 14:51

or for housing, housing. I like the economic development tool list. Now if we’re getting into employment, that’s a long list and we’ve got a whole book I can Do tax rebate etc. I can do income rebates. I can do stuff all day long I can run pilot bonds I can run. Oh, there’s the, the, it’s it’s there’s a huge plethora of opportunity or tools there. But ya know, I think we’re gonna I hope that and I think there’s you know, there’s good groups that are lobbying for those changes at the state’s legislature side. Because this is a new issue and, you know, five, Arkansas, I can’t remember a time, at least in my life that we’ve seen a housing issue or housing escalation of this. You know, Ben, in Washington County, this is new for Arkansas, what you’re saying. And I think that, I think you’ll see more lobbying to the legislature to make those changes where we can have access to those tools, because urban development, you know, yes, we’re not heavy property tax driven. But when we increase density, we’re increasing revenue through sales tax, especially because we have internet sales tax here in Arkansas. So if you end up buying on every bed,

Mat Zalk 15:59

if you end up buying that, like buying a parcel of land, then you can actually control somehow through land use restrictions, the development that goes in there for housing, and what portion of the housing needs to go for 50% agi or 40% AGI.

Devin Howland 16:15

You can even go you can take it a little further than that, as the owner of the land, you know, it gives a lots of opportunities. And there’s a great example of one that I saw in Michigan, that was done where the municipality held a key parking lot. And it was a couple acres in the core of their downtown. We have lots of these. And they put out they knew they needed housing, and they also knew they needed office. And so they were able to do a request for proposals. And they put that out and the development community just swirled and made those applications. But they had stated in that RFP, you know, we want at least 500 units we want half of them have to be X amount of affordability. And how do you leverage that with a character, the property in that situation or other incentive structures that they may have. And so for us and looking at it in an Arkansas based scenario, it’s land. This is not new, we have a ton of land that we as the city own and our commerce district, I sell that land at 20,000 an acre, which is very low up here, but I control it so I can make sure I’m getting the employment metrics, I want the wages, I want the benefits that I want the companies in the right mix, it’s adding, you know, this rippling effect in the sector. So, you know, we That conversation has been add of okay, we’re doing this with companies already, why not do with housing? So that is,

Mat Zalk 17:38

are there any good examples of restricted property that you’ve sold? It actually turned into to nice multifamily development or or I shouldn’t say nice, nice is a relative term, but like, into into high unit, mixed use or just significant numbers of multifamily developments that that you’ve you’re proud

Devin Howland 17:57

of, that I’ve been involved in know, all of mine had been employment based and heavy employment based side. But this push now on this crop not to cry? Well, it is a cry. And this is a new issue. This issue of housing, I think it’s really beckoning it doing now, there’s great examples where we have seen public in regards to, you know, public housing trust and authorities that have bought property and done that, but a city stepping in and doing that. It would be a first time we’re also working on several other public private partnerships right now that I can’t get into. I’m in our downtown core that I’m excited about that, I hope keep setting the tone for pushing these pushing these conversations forward. But

Mat Zalk 18:36

is everything pushing like high density housing, or some of it, you know, big farms that are being converted into into single family residences?

Devin Howland 18:45

Yeah, great question. I’m glad you asked it. Fayetteville has established a growth boundary, because one of the things that we look at is we can’t keep running infrastructure, you know, so many developments don’t pay for themselves. It’s our job to manage taxpayer money, just as it is, you know, you have to manage your plant properties. If I’m not doing a good job, and I’m right here, we’re running it at a loss. We’re doing a disservice to the public. And so the administration of Mayor Jordans have set a growth boundary here and it’s a box it’s it’s called the mayor’s box and it is a four lane arterial that runs around the city. We don’t run pipes outside of it, we don’t want to do cost shares outside of it, we want to backfill and because that’s where our infrastructure network is. And so However, like any community, you know, the challenges that we’re having here is people don’t like change. That’s normal. That’s a normal part of life, yet. We’re gonna grow we’re either really going to like the outcome or we’re not. And, you know, I think, I think again, too, we got to make our table bigger, and that’s really what we’re focusing on now. And so, we will, we used to see increased density across the city in regards to that, but we still have RSF for pockets that exist inside of that and Still pushback that we get experienced when somebody even wants to take a piece of property and goes to residential single family, eight units per acre, and you’re like, oh my gosh, cluster housing, renters or Oh, my and so that is that’s unfortunate to hear. But if that’s not a favorable thing, that’s an every city thing. Sure. Is that out in California? Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And I think a big a key part of that is that’s a whole that’s a separate podcast, and I would need to be off the clock when I did that interview or want to be, but that’s a that’s a separate challenge.

Mat Zalk 20:34

But I mean, the I’m reading this article that was published and top business that net new and I just thought there, but you mentioned it earlier, that the first six months of 2022. There’s a 27% jump in housing prices from 308 $308,000.20 21 to 384,000. You said three, so some somewhere 383,000 or so in 2022, the first six months of 2022. I mean, that’s a that is a that’s well above the actual it’s below the national average. I think it’s something like 414 or something like that, but it’s well above the national average for new for first time homebuyers. Of course the the statistics from the from the real estate Authority came out and said the average first time homebuyer is now 33 In the United States, which is the highest it’s ever been. And I think the average housing price for first time homebuyers is something like 250 or so. So that’s I mean, 383 250 is a massive, massive jump. So there has

Devin Howland 21:34

to be some oh nine when I bought

Mat Zalk 21:39

it’s jumped in a such a huge way. And I think, you know, single family, not everybody’s gonna want to live in apartments, right? I mean, that’s a great, right. It’s a great option. It’s great for density, it’s great for infrastructure is great for reading from tax collection, if you’re if you’re doing the tax, certainly, but then there needs to be something on the single family residence side that that helps drive down that price a little bit or keeps it flat. It’s

Devin Howland 21:59

absolutely and you know it again, to you know, I hate to sound cliche, but again, it’s simply economics at the end of the day on demand. You know, I’m fortunate enough, I live and you know, for your listeners out there, if you look up South Street conscious, and you look up that website, that’s that’s where I live, I live in downtown, I can walk to downtown, I’m in a single family home, but I’m about 10 feet from a neighbor. And I absolutely love it, I’ve got big dogs, we have a yard, but I can walk everywhere I need to go. And it was a big adjustment for me. But it really helped us re that reevaluate our priorities. But it also showed me that there are other models that empathy, you know, to increase this density because I wasn’t familiar with this wasn’t something I had to work on. Before I came northwest Arkansas. I wouldn’t have caught that single family. But it is we’ve got lots of different people that are drawn to these more dense types development. It’s not just you, it’s also the elderly. And you’re seeing people like that that are going into this because guess what, I don’t have to mow the lawn. And that is an amazing thing. And I used to be you take great pride in my diagonal mowed lawn in Little Rock. And so you know, you look at that though, but in the same right. We we put walking and we put walkability above that, and that my biggest The only regret, you know, I have of living in such a type of homes that I didn’t buy two or three. Looking back. And so yes, there are typologies of increasing density. But that’s a big part of it. And you know, I want to touch on something else you talked about, especially with rental properties, you know, you have duplexes, triplexes and quad plexes, you get to Chicago, and you’ve got six flexes and eight blacks. So often, you know the opposition or the you know, the discomfort that we see here, or we hear towards these rental units. I think people should take a walk through their historic district, and they should look closely and really closely and I want you to go duplex hunting and look for an A and a B on that building. And you see some of these beautiful historic homes that you can’t tell. And you know, often with visual preference surveys, you can really change or you can at least you know, quip somebody to sit realize that you know what their perception of a rental unit is is not always the case. Some are absolutely stunning. And they’re blended in and they’re hidden. And these historic districts have that. And so, again, this isn’t a new issue. This isn’t a new problem, you know, the era of suburban developed sprawling developments of these big neighborhoods running out. It’s the shortest experiment in human history that we’ve done. And so especially if we go overseas and look at the development patterns of Europe, etc. Canada. This isn’t new, we’ve done this before. It’s just it’s time to make our play. Like I’m going to keep saying it’s time to make our table bigger.

Mat Zalk 24:45

The the housing issue is real across the country. There is I mean all over Colorado where you have these very high price communities in in Vail and Eagle County and Aspen and all around there’s A significant push by communities to make more housing affordable. Is there anything that they’re doing out? I mean, call it Colorado, Utah. Is there anything that they’re doing in those communities? That’s that’s kind of pushing the boundaries, that’s cutting edge that you can pull back to Fayetteville and make work there?

Devin Howland 25:16

Well, one of the things that I’m envious of in a lot in Colorado, and I was actually just out there, it’s funny you bring up the housing cost there, because we were we stayed at a friend’s house and Lakewood and this beautiful neighborhood. Yeah, it was it walkable. Sure. Was it a suburban development? Yes, it was, but $500 a foot and I just move. Are you kidding me.

Mat Zalk 25:38

And that’s and that’s a reasonable thing for for some parts of Denver, and it’s certainly reasonable for or if you’re if you’re working a service job in Vail, or an aspen, you just that is a you can’t get anything for $500, but be at $500. It’s just so it’s impossible to live.

Devin Howland 25:56

Absolutely. And as you’re seeing lots of stuff, steppin over there and Colorado operates on a much different system than we do. They’re they’re tiff laws. It’s actually sad. Some of the developments that I’ve seen, you know, you’ll see communities fight each other to bring a Costco across a line. And that’s just that’s not what this program should be for. Yet, what you’re seeing too is you’re seeing lots of utilization of density, but density bonuses, you’re seeing tiffs out the wazoo, where as you look into Denver, it may have 20 to 50 running at the same time and Chicago either were 100 running at the same time. And so those tools that are driving that investment, that, you know, I’m envious of those tools, yet, it’s it gives me inspiration to at least push forward to make those changes in our state legislature, to lobby that we need to do this because our economic development future is going to depend on it. Yeah, housing ties, so critically, to business and economic development. And what I mean by that is now you know, you look at why a company locates in an area, it’s not the incentives and all of that, and if it is, I don’t want the company shows like can be bought. But companies are going to follow people. And you know, one of the things we take a great deal of pride in is the quality of life we have here. I know everybody says that, but I’ll put that to challenge come to Fayetteville, come on over. It’s different. And the investments we’re so fortunate to have, there’s so many philanthropies up here with the Walton Family Foundation, Tyson fan Foundation and others that are making incredible investments and biking and trail infrastructure in the arts. People want to live here that is helping drive this housing yet, in the same way companies are falling. And because the hardest find commodity right now is people labor force participation rates at an all time low retirements or hybrid writes down long, it’s not crazy. He keeps talking about this. So in doing that these companies wanting to follow I think, you know, investing in housing and policies related to driving more housing and increasing our rental stock and increasing affordability options are integral to any municipalities economic development, at least one that’s growing at this trait. So what can you say that well, Denver and what they’re doing on the plains and going back to that, that’s where everybody still wants to be. I mean, I’m, I get to go out there and visit once a year, I would love to live there. And at least part of my life I want to try yet. I can’t afford anything unless I’m on the front slope. And so those who are envious of the fact that they have those abilities, and I’m a little bit and I’m hoping those changes are here, but again, you know, I’d say, you know, part of that set sail is look to the south to Texas has these tools. That’s how they’re building Austin right now. That’s the only affordable units that are going down in the city of Austin is the one city got.

Mat Zalk 28:38

Yeah, that’s a fact. On the topic of Austin, I mean, that growth has been so fast. And it’s it is it has outperformed the ability to keep up with infrastructure. I mean, is there anything you say there, you know, there’s the ring outside of what you don’t want to put additional infrastructure? If he doesn’t want to put additional infrastructure? How do you prevent growth that that just is beyond what the city can really handle in terms of traffic and highways and everything else?

Devin Howland 29:06

Well, it gets in it gets back into planning and it gets into actually under sticking planning our work and sticking to the plan. And I don’t mean to sound cliche there. We have an extremely strong development services. But you know, we look at and we think about how we make our tax dollars work. I’ll give you one example of the types of planning. We just had somebody come in last year the year prior and they scanned every inch of roadway in the city of Fayetteville so that we could prioritize what needed to be patched what can last what’s going to crumble and actually what’s going to be more cost effective and how we fix that let’s leaving some crumbling streets crumbling because at this point, it’s we can save others that save us money down the line for those types of strategic you know, analytics. We apply to everything you know, water and sewer infrastructure, etc. Our roadways and trails and as we get We continue to build these assets. Maintenance is, you know, often the center of the discussion. We’ve been gifted and we purchased a lot of land that we converted into mountain bike and tracks. If you look up Centennial Park cuts project, I’m particularly passionate about a help to be on the land acquisition side of that deal and purchasing that incredible mountain yet. It was and we were fortunate to do so through gift yet you got to think about maintenance center. And how do you pay for that going forward and managing on the highways. One of the things actually, it’s funny, we had one, we have a couple highways running through Fayetteville, but one we actually just took from the state, and that is College Avenue highway 71 V, was the main thoroughfare through our community. And we wanted to do more with it. And we actually recognize that we could stack increased density actually make this a walkable corridor and actually dangle a carrot get to do that we needed to own roads, we actually took it from the state. And they’re happy to do that, when you do it and actually comes with a little bit of change, because it takes them off of there, make sure we run bonds, we just ran through the $30 million bond transportation was the largest side of that. And what was unique about that bond campaign, I’ve never seen this done. And if you’re if your listeners aren’t familiar, you know, municipalities will push really big bonds to cover infrastructure projects that they need. And they’ll pay that bond off over 510 1520 year period, whatever the note is, our administration did something and it would think it was a real testament to the residents here. We through bogged down with 10 separate questions on 10 different amounts of total, you know, if they only voted two, we were only getting two. And we ended up voting in all 10. That took a lot of political will to do, but also took a residency that really believe in those projects, because they were voting for specific things well, and then the transportation side, addressing some of that aging infrastructure dealing with some of those traffic issues. But you have to go to the popular ones, those ones that knew you have some in your town that you missed, make you roll your eyes. And dealing with that, too. It’s also planning for the future, because that doesn’t necessarily mean more lines. That’s a different topic. I won’t go down that rabbit hole today. But he told me the interstate that the solution is adding a lane. Okay, let’s talk about California. We just keep adding a lane. So that to deal with that, too. He goes back to housing. And I’m not just saying that because it’s topic of our conversation. Indeed, if we can increase density in the desire series, and we can provide that development path for developers to build the units the market wants there. Well, at that point, we’re not running infrastructure outside, we’re not worried about that if somebody is on a transit line, etc. So the housing drives everything in my opinion at this point, which is why increasing these pockets of density across the city. And these key areas is so crucial. And I will say I’ve got one I’m excited about. I won’t say its name. But it we used bond funds to do a railroad crossing and I am so tickled. We are a housing project coming forward. And it is 55 units per acre on a 39 acre tract will be 2075 units in total. It’ll be I can’t believe it’s the densest housing development in Arkansas, outside of you know, a tower in downtown Little Rock. So we’re very excited about that. And that’s going to be some much needed units that will be phased in over these next few years.

Mat Zalk 33:27

What is the actual inbound population on an annual basis or monthly basis?

Devin Howland 33:33

You know, we’re looking at we just we got our recent our 20 of the 2020 census came out so I’ll run out and get an hour for you. But that’s at about seven bucks a day. And in looking at that it’s key before somebody says to oh wait, you know, the University of Arkansas, they’re counting students, students got to be here over nine monster check to take into the census. So I can tell you from the Texas and neck Texas Exodus that happens as soon as the school moves out in the great migration back to Dallas happens. It’s not all just students here. We’re seeing a lot of folks from Austin, I can’t tell you the number of people from Austin that I’ve met just at farmer’s markets every Saturday. And they’re their complaint too, though, to your point earlier. It’s it’s there, they’re chasing, I think affordability and they’re chasing their tail. They’re cashing in on that those assets there yet they’re looking for an air quality of life but without addressing housing. That’s going to change here too.

Mat Zalk 34:27

But I figure if that’s 2000 a year in the 2020 census that has to have gone up I mean Fayetteville. I think Tulsa, Oklahoma City, all those all these towns have been net beneficiaries of COVID people are moving out of New York and LA to places like Miami and Denver, no doubt but also to places like Fayetteville. I mean, they see the quality of life, the affordable aspect, visa vie a relative to those other towns in there. I have to imagine it’s more than seven a day after or during COVID At least.

Devin Howland 34:55

Oh you probably absolutely right. And number two and again that’s the problem. Um, what’s running on census? Yeah, one of the things that we can do that were interesting and looking at today is we can tap the beauty of running our own water and sewers, we can tap into that data. And look at that. I don’t have those numbers on me. I know when looking at that to, you know, the migration that you talked about. It’s, it’s interesting, and, you know, begging the question, you know, I’m sure you’ve looked at it, too, you know, are these other places seeing loss? You know, we’re not seeing that here in the south. But is that is that pedestrian shed out out of these other states? Yeah,

Mat Zalk 35:35

I mean, I think California has definitely seen that loss. Certainly during COVID, because I don’t know if you’ve been out to LA lately. It’s wild. I mean, there’s so much home in San Francisco last year. It’s, it’s pretty bad. And all of our friends that live in LA are I mean, a lot of people say if I wasn’t anchored there with family and other places, I would definitely leave a lot of people are certainly leaving because they went there for the beauty of the beaches and the weather. And they’re finding it just to be a cumbersome existence, both from the from, from an affordability perspective, and also with, you know, homeless people that are digging through your trash cans at all times. And that’s, I mean, that’s a testament to the lack of mental mental well being and mental health institutions that are better have been defunded over the years, really, really, really sad. But fundamentally, they’re moving back to our areas because they think it’s a better quality of life. And they’re moving from Austin as well. Because that’s also gotten so expensive. And also the infrastructure you have to drive half an hour. But to your point of being very, very close to your to your work on a daily basis. That is incredible. From a quality life perspective, if you have to drive if you’re in Boston, and you have to drive an hour each way in good weather and two hours each way during a snowstorm that is a huge detriment to the quality of life. And you know, I think towns where you can be closer the weather is good and hot in the summer, but good generally all year round. It’s just

Devin Howland 36:48

a huge huge boon. To man, it’s and I’m really glad you brought that up. And you know, this isn’t a brag point. But you know, I am two minutes from my work. It takes me two minutes to walk into downtown, or at least the hall that I

Mat Zalk 37:02

like, I’m like seven minutes, but still pretty good.

Devin Howland 37:06

Well, I gotta get my calves over the table has hills, and that’s the problem. And looking at that too, though, you think about why these populates? Maybe it’s also but even northwest Arkansas are different. You take a student from Dallas and the other book into this region is Bentonville and Bentonville for folks that don’t know, that’s where Walmart headquarters is growing. Absolutely beautiful community. If you’re not aware of the new Walmart headquarters, it’s being built new city just about check it out. It’s absolutely stunning. Oh, it tastes like it’s gonna take a few years to build that. And I don’t know. But they’ve literally amassed blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks. And they’re building a city. It has housing, it has hotels and restaurants and trails are and yet but again to you look at Fortune wanting and what are they doing? We’re competing with, they’re having to compete to pull talent. Again, this all goes back to people. And so, but in looking at that Bendis 30 minute drive from here. That’s a grocery store trip for a Dallas transplant. Yeah. So for me, I’m like, Oh, we’re driving to Bentonville tonight. And but I have to remember to, especially from an economic development side, when I think about you know what tax dollars are leaving my community that I’m trying to stop. That’s nothing for a lot of our new residents to drive up there just to even go get the Trader Joe’s they want we don’t have a Trader Joe’s in Bentonville. Is that anyway?

Mat Zalk 38:33

Yeah. That’s so funny. I mean, we talked about Tulsa. If it’s more than 15 minutes, I’m just not going. There’s just almost no way I might have to go for work at some point. But you know, generally speaking on a Tuesday night, if we want to go for dinner, I’m definitely not going more than 10 or 15 minutes. That’s that’s a stretch. Devin, it’s been so great to chat with you. I really appreciate your perspective on economic development on the housing issues that many of our communities are facing. So where can people reach you if they want to know more if they want to, they want to contribute if they want to just generally understand more about what you’re doing.

Devin Howland 39:07

Absolutely. A couple different ways I’m active on LinkedIn. Devin Howland director of economic vitality in the city of Fayetteville are also welcome to reach out to me on my work email [email protected]

Mat Zalk 39:23

I love it. Devin Howland, economic vitality director for the city of Fayetteville in Arkansas again, one of the fastest growing and consistently named the best places to live in the country. Super exciting, Devin, thank you for having for being on here. We really appreciate you.

Devin Howland 39:40

Thanks, man. Appreciate you have a great one.

Outro 39:46

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