by Stephanie Byrnes
It was 1994 when my family made a move from Biloxi, Miss., to Arkansas. My air traffic controller father had just been assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base, and suddenly my parents found themselves in the familiar situation of finding a new home. As they researched and visited the Jacksonville area, they fell in love with Cabot’s excellent schools and inviting community, so my father accepted the fifteen-minute commute, and like so many others in the military, my family temporarily settled into the small town.
Fifteen years later my parents still live in Cabot, and while the population might have over doubled since they moved there so many years ago, not a whole lot has changed. Cabot still holds true to its small-town atmosphere and strong public school reputation, and continues to allure an increasing amount of citizens and businesses each year with its charm and convenience.
Recently, BusinessWeek.com, in conjunction with the Little Rock Gadberry Group, set out on a mission to find the largest “boomtowns” for each state across the nation. Through a national survey, the group found Cabot in their search to represent the “boomtown” of Arkansas.
Cabot sits as the largest town in Lonoke County with just over 25,000 residents and demonstrated growth in households from 2000 to 2008 and from 2007 to 2008, the emergence of new neighborhoods, and an increase in household income, among several other factors.
BusinessWeek.com reported the Cabot area household grew 45 percent from 2000 to 2008, and the average household income swelled 83 percent. With stats like those, it is no wonder why Cabot is considered a “boomtown.”
And while BusinessWeek.com rightfully attributes much of Cabot’s growth to the Little Rock Air Force Base’s expansion to the largest C-130 air crew training base in the Air Force, some Cabot leaders think it goes largely deeper than that.
“The quaint and friendly city boasts of a small-town family-type atmosphere, a low crime rate, and a responsive city government,” commented Cabot Chamber of Commerce executive director Billye Everett. “Cabot is a unique community where citizens enjoy a quality of life that a lot of people only dream about. The sizzle of the city and the quiet of country living, hometown values, quality living and down home community pride, all best describes Cabot.”
Dr. Tony Thurman, superintendent of the Cabot School District, obviously credits much of the city’s success to the superior public school system. “We believe that the success of a community is directly related to the quality of the local public school system,” he stated. “Our community expects great things from our district and residents are very supportive of providing the resources necessary to ensure that this happens.”
Great schools and friendly citizens are not all that draw people to Cabot’s community, however. Cabot business has definitely “boomed” in the last few years, as well, providing citizens with a multitude of conveniences. In 2007, Cabot licensed 194 new businesses, and 2008 followed in a similar suit with 97 new businesses in the first five months alone. In the last couple of years, Cabot has created a market for specialty boutiques, professional photographers, independent and chain restaurants, realtors and medical professional clinics.
Now within Cabot’s city limits, citizens can hit the local Kroger for groceries, a boutique for designer jeans, a bowling alley for family entertainment, and a family-owned restaurant for fine dining.
But with the housing market declining and the economy slumping, BusinessWeek.com seems concerned with the future of the boomtowns of America. So how will Cabot continue to foster a bright future in light of some hard circumstances?
As far as the school district is concerned, Thurman is optimistic. “We are very excited about the future of Cabot schools,” he said. “We are fortunate to be a part of a community that has extremely high expectations for the local school system. Our challenge is to stay progressive with all aspects of our programming, provide outstanding facilities and continue to attract the most highly qualified staff possible to be a part of our team.”
The Cabot chamber also continues to see only a successful outlook in light of some challenges facing them today. “In these difficult economic times it becomes more important than ever that we continue on the path of working together toward a common goal – keeping the economic climate of our community healthy,”
Everett said. “I am confident that the coming year will be another banner year for our chamber and our community.”