- Associated Press - Friday, July 14, 2017

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (AP) - Rural communities in northeast Arkansas are struggling to keep pace with the recent influx of business and population.

At the center of the shortage is Walnut Ridge, which grew to 5,340 people after annexing College City in January, Arkansas Business (https://bit.ly/2umiOjY ) reported.

Mayor Charles Snapp said the city’s population has increased by more than 10 percent since 2015. Its unemployment rate is below the state and national average at 3.2 percent.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Snapp said. “It’s a mayor’s dream to have more jobs than people to fill them, but it is still a problem.”

The shortage has prompted some area employers to provide shuttles to larger cities nearby as a temporary solution.

“People will drive 25 miles, sometimes 40 miles or more from as far away as Doniphan, Missouri, to get to work,” Snapp said. “Transportation is a big expense for individuals, and it takes a lot of time from people’s families, which causes high turnover.”

More than 30 residential permits have been issued so far in 2017, up from six permits in 2010. A new subdivision with 32 lots is also scheduled to begin construction in late August.

Snapp is optimistic about the housing increase, but said it’s still not keeping up with workforce demands.

“It is up to us to try to get the word out so investors will take a closer look at the area’s potential,” he said. “We may have been stagnant for decades, but the return on investment is here now.”

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Information from: Arkansas Business, https://www.arkansasbusiness.com


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