Paragould on list of cities to watch

Paragould part of Economy study

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Local and county officials gathered together at Reynolds Park on Tuesday for some exciting news for Paragould.

Associate Professor of Economics in the College of Business at Arkansas Tech University Marc Fusaro traveled to the area to let people know they're tracking the city.

"We're sharing the news that Paragould is the latest city to be added to the Arkansas Tech Business Index," Fusaro said. "ATBI is an effort to track various city level economies across the state of Arkansas."

Paragould will make 20 cities they are following in the state on the ATBI.

Fusaro said their work is thorough.

"We track four primary areas of the economy," Fusaro said. "We look at labor markets, the unemployment rate and things like that. We look at housing markets. Are people buying homes? And what are the prices looking like? We track construction permits, both residential and commercial construction, and we track the retail sector."

Fusaro said the purpose of the index is to give people an idea of how the city is doing, and in turn how the state is.

"It's a way of taking all of these different pieces of information," Fusaro said. "One day you'll hear the unemployment rate is good and the next day you'll hear that housing starts aren't looking good, and so we wanted a way of taking these various pieces of information, drawing them together and synthesizing them into a single monthly number for the economy. And that's what the Arkansas Tech Business Index does. It averages those various pieces of information, seven pieces of information in total, and it takes them and averages them to give us a monthly snapshot in each of the cities we track."

Fusaro said there's a reason behind a city being chosen.

"It's primarily the largest cities," Fusaro said. "In the cities above 50,000, you'll see it in there. But then we also have some cities that are a little bit on the smaller side but are the largest cities in their region of the state. For example, we track Mountain Home, which is not as large as some of the other cities we track, but it's the largest city in the North Central Arkansas in its region. There are some other cities around the state that are similar. El Dorado for example. We track El Dorado even though it's not quite as large as some of the other cities that we track."

Fusaro said Paragould getting on the index is a big thing for Region 8 residents.

"It means it's one of the economic drivers in the state of Arkansas," Fusaro said. "It's one of the cities we think is important in order to capture a picture of the entire state and that's our primary goal. We're not tracking the entire state. We're tracking the cities within. But we're trying to select cities that tell us what's going on statewide and so the fact that we've added Paragould and also recently added Benton to the index tells you that we think it is a key in economic component of the state of Arkansas economic activity."

Mayor Mike Gaskill said he believed the city being added to the index is a great opportunity for exposure.

"I think it will let people know outside of this community the kind of community that Paragould is," Gaskill said. "And so, the information will be out there and they'll be able to know what's going on and so people will see us as a progressive and growing community. Not just in population, but also in job opportunities, commercial development and things like that."

Gaskill said Paragould being included on the index shows how much the city has grown in so many areas.

"We were really pleased with that because Paragould has really grown," Gaskill said. "Our population has been growing, our industries have been growing, commercial developments have been growing, residential housing, apartments, everything we have has been growing. And because of that, they were looking at us. So, we started furnishing them with information about permits and things like that so they can see how many houses we're building. How much commercial work we're doing or if our industry is doing additions and things like that. And so, for us to be included in that just kind of puts Paragould along with a lot of other growing communities and so we're glad to be a part of that because we want people to realize Paragould is a very progressive community. We want this to be a good place to live and it does require some growth and it does require different kinds of jobs we might have in this community. So that's part of what we do."

The results are released once a month on the index's website.

"Arkansans can see what the latest state of their city is," Fusaro said. "We also make all the data available on our website."

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