As I write this, a news story is making the rounds that a magazine for economic developers and investors has rated the Jonesboro metropolitan area No. 1 in the South and Southwest for economic strength.
That’s a conclusion reached from statistics produced by Area Development magazine, ranking Jonesboro ahead of not only the rest of Arkansas but some very successful cities like Dallas, Nashville and Phoenix.
This, of course, doesn’t mean we are about to open an NFL franchise in Jonesboro. But it does mean we are getting the most out of our economy — great businesses and great workers producing and providing great services. And we’re doing it at a rate that is bested by no one, so far as the highest eagle can see.
As I move deeper into my 10th year as mayor of this fine city, I recognize that over the past decade we not only have grown, but we have matured in our needs and priorities. And the final 2½ years of my term will be spent working to meet those expanding, diverse needs.
I ran for re-election in 2016 on quality of life issues, and in Jonesboro that means a lot of different things to different people. It is founded in safety, and we have as fine a police force and fire department as you will find.
We have been growing during my tenure by three residents per day, and I fully anticipate our population sign will read 80,000 after the 2020 census. Job No. 1 for any city during a period of sustained growth is sustained safety. I am proud that even though we have seen increased overall crime, our crime rates per capita have not changed over the past decade. We also have the best possible ISO fire rating, which means our residents pay the lowest possible premiums for home insurance because our fire department meets the highest of standards.
What people want now, and what we work on every day, are quality of life products that everyone can enjoy. We completed a beautiful, 3.2-mile paved multiuse trail in Craighead Forest Park last year. I’ll put that park up against any city park in Arkansas.
But our growing city clamors for more. We have paid for a master trail plan that connects every corner of our city with downtown. It’s about walkability, bikeability, connectivity, exercise. Of course, our most proud institution is Arkansas State University, and creating a connection between the campus and downtown is a longstanding dream that we now have the ability to make happen. Our civic and business leaders are engaged partners, and we are working with A-State and our Chamber of Commerce to make these pieces fit together.
We are building roads for a new sports shooting complex that will be the finest in the region, and to Joe Mack Campbell Park, where we’ve installed artificial turf on 10 fields. We are finalizing plans for the first neighborhood dog park, as we are overdue in serving our pet-loving community.
Continuing our growth of services downtown is a key priority, as more and more residents are enjoying that downtown lifestyle. Developers are resurrecting buildings and neighborhoods, creating a more vibrant downtown.
Our healthcare industry has made $1 billion in capital investments, and the upgrades by St. Bernards Medical Center are leading the transformation downtown.
What I’m always most proud of in Jonesboro is the way we give. I’ve made a point to emphasize public-private partnerships, because we can’t even begin to get by on sales tax income alone. Thanks to some in our industrial park and a partnership with the Beck Pride Center at A-State, we plan to build a Veterans Village. It will provide housing and resources to homeless veterans.
In conclusion, the Arkansas Municipal League says great cities make great states. I can tell you that in my 10 years as mayor, Jonesboro has shown me that great residents make a great city.
Editor’s note: Harold Perrin is the mayor of Jonesboro. The opinions expressed are those of the author.