Portia profits from construction

PORTIA, AR (KAIT) - The little town of Portia in Lawrence county has been raking in profits from local construction. Although not growing per se. It's been a pretty "green" couple of years.

Certainly Portia is not one of the biggest towns with population under 500. But it is heavily trafficked. Year-round trucks and travelers heading North and South stop in to grab some catfish or soft ice cream at the Dairy King or gas or ice at the grocery store.

For many years, the 4 lane expansion has been creeping up 63 to Portia. Now only a mile or so remains to be paved and striped. Construction completion slipped for about a year when 2011 flooding destroyed a lot of work already done.

With all the construction in the area.Money is being spent in town like at the Dairy King restaurant.

I stopped in just before the daily lunch rush began. Veteran cook Becky Spades says all the workers in the area have helped their bottom line.

"Our wintertime, it's been steady." Spades said as she worked on the daily special. "Where usually in winter, we cut back the employees. But we didn't have to do that the last two winters. The winter before we had a flood so that helped us out cause we were the only place open." The restaurant has 25 employees, the ones working the day shift were flying around the room taking orders and serving up lunch.

There are quite a few small businesses in Portia along 63. Included are a service station, a couple of antique shops, a Barbecue place, a bait and archery and the grocery store and others. All of which have benefited from the traffic and workers.

Just cross the Burlington Northern tracks, Birdsong Peanuts is building their new drying facility. Those construction workers plus anticipated truck traffic will also bring in the green. It is estimated about 250 semi's will be passing through the town.

Mayor Jerry Sienknecht says Portia has potential.

"With some direction and some money and some development to grow some. We could be in a good place." He said.

Wanda Dunlap has lived in Portia nearly all her life. She loves her town and is excited about the future.

"For the first time we've got a good opportunity for growth. Not everybody likes growth but it can be a good thing for us." Dunlap said. "Right now, you couldn't rent a house in town if you wanted too. And people want to."

The next big construction boom for Portia is going to be the replacement of the bridge over the Black River. That 2 to 3 year project could mean a chunk of change for the registers in this area.

Mayor Sienknecht says they are discussing looking for some property to perhaps build a temporary mobile home park for construction workers. Spades says they are looking at menu changes and making sure they have plenty of parking available for the anticipated crowds.

Spades, "They'll be coming for lunch and hopefully they'll be coming for their morning break and have a late breakfast so that will help too. We're getting excited about it."

Bridge construction is supposed to start sometime in 2013.

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