Friday, February 10, 2012

TOP STORY >> Mayor has role of cheerleader

Leader staff writer

“I’m a cheerleader for Cabot,” Mayor Bill Cypert told the Rotary Club on Tuesday.

Cabot is the 20th largest and the third fastest-growing city in Arkansas. The mayor is convinced the city will grow at a steady rate to a population of nearly 50,000 in 2050.

Cypert said a lot of Cabot’s prosperity is attributable to the success of the central Arkansas region it is part of.

Since 2005, the metro Little Rock area has added 11,697 new jobs, $450 million in new payroll and $1.1 billion in capital investment, the mayor said.

Forbes magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, U.S. News and World Report, MSN and others have named the region the fourth strongest economy, seventh best place for jobs, sixth best real estate market, second least toxic area, fourth fastest in green job growth, ninth strongest housing market, seventh best place for starting over, the sixth best mid-size area for jobs, the seventh best value area, America’s eighth greatest gain in real estate values, 10th best area for recent college graduates, the best metro for young professionals and the 19th best-performing area for creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth in the country.

Cypert said, “We have managed to thrive in the midst of this recession. There are a lot of positive things about Central Arkansas and, of course, Cabot is a part of that. Cabot is going to grow, period. Working together, Cabot will be one of the best places to live, work and invest. Talk it up.”’

The city’s main assets are the strong support of a successful school district with more than 10,000 students and the backing of the Little Rock Air Force Base, the mayor continued.

Only 37 of more than 500 Arkansas cities have a population that surpasses the enrollment for the Cabot School District, which is the seventh largest in Arkansas and boasts a 96 percent graduation rate.

Its budget is $81 million and it had a millage rate of 39.5 last year.

The high school’s new HPER (health, physical education and recreation) and cafeteria building was completed last month.

The renovation of the high school’s auditorium is almost finished and the ninth grade facility is set to open in Fall 2014.

Little Rock Air Force Base has a local economic impact of $720 million and is the fifth largest employer in the state.

Cypert said, “If you walk out anywhere in Cabot, four out of five people you see are connected to the base in some way.”

The mayor shared a laundry list of positive things about Cabot.

The city sales tax revenue is up 2.10 percent, the county sales tax revenue is up 18.18 percent, revenue and expenses are on target and cash or cash equivalents were up $193,430 for a total of $4,164,835 as of Dec. 31.

There are 950 active business licenses and 9,561 water customers in Cabot.

Cypert said the city offers one of the top BMX bike tracks in the central United States; a small hometown family-oriented atmosphere with big city amenities nearby; a sound water and wastewater infrastructure with long term strategic plans; more than 30 evangelical church congregations; a caring and volunteering community; close proximity to the world class medical facilities at UAMS; close proximity to recreational places for fishing, deer and duck hunting; a state-of-the-art armory; a trained workforce with good work ethics; and nearby higher education and technical education facilities.

Cabot is located on a planned interstate route to St. Louis; is immediately adjacent to the Little Rock metro and central Arkansas areas that have a great deal of potential for commercial expansion; has a broad base of community support and involvement in youth sports and other diverse activities; offers a 32-lane state-of-the-art family bowling center; has a dual railroad for potential future mass transportation to the Little Rock metro; it is near both a national and regional airport; and has two different major roadways to the Little Rock metro.

The city is home to a Department of Workforce Services office, state Rep. Rick Crawford’s constituent office, Arkansas State University at Beebe and at LRAFB and Cabotfest, Cypert added.

A few rotary members asked questions after the mayor’s presentation.

Someone inquired about whether the city’s vehicles would “go green” and become more economical. Cypert said the city would look into that.

In response to another comment about how the city is growing, Cypert said, “Typically Cabot has exploded overnight. We’ve never been prepared for it. We have to start planning strategically.”

Another rotary member said, “Not having an interstate is a big deal,” amidst nods of agreement.