Monday, December 30, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Communities Rebounding

Many communities here are growing again after the Great Recession, but not all of them. According to Metroplan, Lonoke County gained 3.1 percent to 70,490 residents, with Austin gaining nearly 10 percent, Ward 7.5 percent and Cabot 3.3 percent, while Lonoke added only seven residents. England lost about 1.5 percent and Carlisle lost 1.1 percent.

Lonoke County grew by about 1.1 percent annually, less than half its annual growth rate from 2000-2010. But those numbers are still impressive because more growth is inevitable as the area’s economy continues to rebound.

Cabot’s population now stands at 24,570, Austin at 2,239, Ward at 4,374 and Lonoke at 4,252. Unincorporated areas grew 3.1 percent, from 28,440 to 29,3333.

Beebe, which is not part of Metroplan, continues its impressive growth, just like the smaller suburban communities of Austin and Ward. Since the 2010 census, Beebe grew from 7,315 to 7,640 in 2012, a gain of 4.5 percent.

Beebe, like the other nearby small towns, could see healthy growth during the rest of the decade, perhaps 35 percent or more, especially if the economy continues to improve.

Pulaski County has the largest population, but its growth is the slowest. Its growth of more than 7,000 resulted in an increase of only 2 percent.

While the average Pulaski County city gained 2 percent in population between 2010 and 2013, Jacksonville dropped 0.2 percent — declining from 28,364 to 28,318 — according to preliminary data collected by Metroplan.

Sherwood’s population increased 1.6 percent. Maumelle had the largest Pulaski County gain — 3 percent — and North Little Rock added 2.7 percent, according to Metroplan’s semi-annual publication Metro Trends.

In central Arkansas, Faulkner County is growing the fastest, followed by Saline County.

There’s more good news for Cabot: Single-family building permits in Cabot for the first half of 2013 appear to be running about 40 percent ahead of the previous year, after averaging about 46 new permits in the first six months of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For the same period, they seem to be trending upward in Sherwood.

Single-family home construction in Jacksonville remained flat through the first half of 2013. In Jacksonville, 12 multi-family permits were issued in 2009, six in 2010, none in 2011 and eight in 2012.

Metroplan demographer Jonathan Lupton told The Leader last week that a stand-alone school district could help reverse the downward trend in Jacksonville.

That’s what Jacksonville residents and officials have been hoping for years, and it appears that a stand-alone district may be closer to reality than ever.