Tuesday, July 28, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville gets its turn

For the first time in a long time, Jacksonville is growing faster than its neighboring communities of Sherwood and Cabot.

Based on building permits issued through the first six months of the year, Jacksonville construction is up 60 percent, Cabot is down 30 percent and Sherwood’s numbers have fallen by 13 percent.

This is good news for Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, whose motto for the past few years has been, “It’s coming.”

“It” may now well be on its way.

The mayor credits the increase in single-family home building permits on the word getting out about the new school district and positive talk about the city.

“This is truly a wonderful city to live in,” he told us.

Commercially, the largest permit of the year belongs to Crain Ford – a $3 million remodel and facelift showing its longtime commitment to Jacksonville and giving it a better and brighter fa├žade along busy Hwy. 67/167, which in turn reflects well on the city.

Fletcher credits the growth to more people noticing the $900 million financial impact of Little Rock Air Force Base. “The shooting range is doing well, our tax collections are up, and the hotels are seeing good occupancy numbers,” he said.

The mayor believes this six-month trend is only the beginning. “We are getting second looks now by a number of national entities.”

He said the move to the positive side of the growth spectrum has been a collaborative effort, and it does seem to be paying off. He added, “We have a number of projects in the works and, hopefully, we’ll see a domino effect.”

Let’s hope those dominoes will include doing something with the Jacksonville Middle School site on Main Street behind the new and improved Crain Ford, the closed gas station on Main Street that greets visitors to the city and that ugly patch of land and concrete between the remodeled Cancun restaurant and the old police station.

On the home side of this recent growth, Fletcher said he’s worried about the city running out of subdivisions.

What a nice problem to have, for a change. He knows it’s not always easy keeping up with Jacksonville’s rapidly growing neighbors, but Fletcher says his city’s time has come. He’s right.