Independence County, Arkansas
A nice lifestyle with a smaller price tag
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Independence County, Arkansas for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Cities
There are those who thrive on the big city lifestyle. The noise, hustle and bustle, big lights, and nonstop action can be a draw. For others, the tranquility and small-town feel provide just the right atmosphere. Coupled with the community feel that small-town living provides, there are a multitude of reasons why residents have chosen to call Independence County and the City of Batesville their chosen place to live, work, and play in Arkansas.
Located within a few hours of Memphis, Tennessee, and a short drive to other neighboring towns, Independence County boasts the natural beauty and the outdoor lifestyle that its residents take pride in. With rolling hills, endless farmland, the foothills of the Ozarks, and the White River that flows into Batesville providing a great opportunity for trout fishing, Independence County remains an attractive place for citizens and visitors, alike.
For Adam Mitchell, President & CEO of Citizens Bank located in Batesville, Independence County has unlimited potential, as a vibrant community with a population of 34,233 as of the last census. “The Batesville area is actually a pretty thriving community. At the last census, the population growth of 9.2% is the most within the five-county area,” Mitchell reports. “We have a very strong educational foundation with our public schools and then there is Lyon College, which has done a really good job with the establishment of the Veterinarian and Dental Schools in Little Rock, as well as partnering with White River Health (our local hospital) to do an RN to BSN program that will be huge for both the area and the state.”
Independence County and the City of Batesville have many other things going for them according to Mitchell. Top of the list boils down to the quality of life for its valued residents which can’t be overstated. “Batesville has a fairly low cost of living compared to other large cities within the state of Arkansas,” Mitchell states. “It has the benefit of having a small-town feel, very low crime rate, and a lot of recreational opportunities in the area, but also has a lot of synergy in the job market from the hospital to the financial institutions to the local school systems to poultry and manufacturing.”
Robert Griffin, County Judge, acknowledges the engagement of its citizens and the productivity of the workforce in Independence County. “Our community is based around education, banking, business, and industry. We have a workforce noted for its willingness to produce a quality product and be at work consistently,” Griffin notes. “From a County Government standpoint, finding a way to make projects happen has been a key to our successes. I will point to the latest industry making an investment here – Independent Stave Company. When we were contacted about their interest in a tract of land to build a plant, my office kept in touch with AEDC for information about their application for industrial development assistance such as tax back opportunities.”
He adds, “We made a deal and the QC of Independence County approved up to a $50 million bond issue for the development of this industry. We also offered in-kind work on public roads (funded by the county), workforce training through UACCB (a program funded by the County), and any other help we can offer.”
With the key role that Lyon College has played in the community, as well as representing a great partner for the City of Batesville, Melissa Taverner President of Lyon College highlights how this key educational partnership has helped to strengthen the County as a whole. She shares, “Lyon College has been a vital member of the local region for 150 years, and the city, the county, and the College have benefitted over the years from a strong and mutually supportive relationship. The area is fortunate to also be the home to the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) which provides quality and ever-expanding opportunities for our citizens to pursue higher education, supporting workforce development in the region.”
Leaders at these two institutions and many individuals in local government and industries partnered to create an educational focus as an integral part of the county’s grassroots community development plan, IMPACT. The Independence County Educational Foundation, a direct outgrowth of the IMPACT initiatives, intentionally works to connect the two higher educational institutions with area school and industry leaders from Batesville, Southside, and other communities to promote and support the myriad of educational opportunities in the area to students of all ages.
With so much to offer, Independence County continues to see growth, and to match the current and anticipated expansion of the area several residential developments are on the city agenda. Mitchell explains, “Both single family and multi-family residential developments are in the works that will provide much needed housing within Batesville and Independence County.
In an ongoing effort to continue the economic momentum in the Batesville area and within Independence County, the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce recently relaunched the 2016 IMPACT Independence County Program that focuses on economic prosperity, education, health and wellness, and placemaking. “There are a couple of projects in the works, including planned trails as part of the river system, as well as plans to develop the highway and transportation system to support the growth of Batesville,” Mitchell says.
The Mayor of Batesville has taken a proactive stance towards infrastructure and ensuring funds are available for any necessary upgrades. Mitchell adds, “There are several initiatives on the table that the mayor is working on as we speak to make sure the city has the funding for its growth. In addition, both Batesville and Southside school districts have very robust strategic plans which include infrastructure and grants to help expand their schools, including the addition of auditoriums, gymnasiums, new classrooms, and new cafeterias to ensure the schools stay in step with the growth of the population and local economy.”
Independence County can also boast an impressive industry focus. Sizable companies including Toro and Bad Boy Mowers have chosen to operate facilities in the area which help to support the robust local economy. Mitchell points out, however, that special attention should be given to local businesses, and notes new small businesses are encouraged to set up shop in the area to reflect the local character of the region.
“With IMPACT Relaunch, we have a strategic partnership with the businesses and industries that are members of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce,” Mitchell highlights. “We [Citizens Bank] have allocated $15 million in low interest rate loans to assist Downtown Batesville businesses and property owners. We have also provided in excess of $120,000 in grants to Downtown Batesville Merchants. ”
Looking to the future, Mitchell is convinced that Batesville and Independence County are poised to take on further growth. The next three to five years also look promising in the realm of infrastructure, educational initiatives, industry, and small businesses. “I definitely feel very good about how IMPACT Independence County continues to positively affect the future of Batesville and Independence County , and Citizens Bank is honored to be a part of that effort.” Mitchell concludes.
*Top featured image photo credit: Kyle Christopher
A Warm Welcome to Lyon College Students
From the Desk of: Dale Cole, Chairman & CEO of First Community Bank
On behalf of our community, I want to welcome you to Lyon College and congratulate you on this new beginning in your journey of higher education. Lyon is much more than just a college. It is known as a community set apart by its noble leadership, academic curriculum, distinguished professors, and award-winning faculty. You are joining a family of students, a network of over 7,000 Alumni, and a team of quality staff who all share a common bond. Lyon College is indeed unique, and I know your experience here will be one to cherish.
Joining the Lyon College student body provides you an opportunity to also live and enjoy the Batesville community. It is our goal to ensure you feel right at home here. Our community is blessed with countless opportunities for you to achieve your academic and career goals. From providing a vast variety of internship programs and job placement, to helping you feel welcome in a church family who will support you, our community will nurture and encourage you in each step of your journey.
Here you will find a one of a kind landscape, including the charming White River and countless recreation parks, walking and bike trails. Batesville is also home to a state of the art 100,000-square-foot Community Center & Aquatics Park, which includes gymnasiums, a walking/running track, fitness facility, meeting venues and indoor/outdoor swimming pools. I encourage you to experience all Batesville and Independence County have to offer! You will not find a better community to call home during your time at Lyon.
Our community reflects a welcoming spirit to each of our Lyon College students and their families. It is often said, there is no place like home. During your days at Lyon, we promise to be your home away from home.
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AT A GLANCE
Independence County, Arkansas
What: A thriving, family-friendly community; population 37,000
Where: Northeastern Arkansas