JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Craighead County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Arkansas.
Between 2010 and 2017, the county's population increased 11.1% from 96,443 people to 107,115. That's an increase of 10,672 people.
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said the population growth is due to Jonesboro having so much to offer.
"We're having such a diversity in Jonesboro," Perrin said. "That we're increasing in almost every area. We're doing well in education, as well as retail and manufacturing. We've had a lot of our existing industries to add on and create new jobs. We've also had some new announcements of new industry. The medical school at Arkansas State University, obviously. We're only in our second year of that medical school, which now has 280 students that are going to be doctors. Then next year, here comes another 140. We've also added several retail operations here in town for shopping. And our unemployment is so low. That's good news."
Perrin said Jonesboro is a part of the piece.
"When you take the MSA and the whole area," Perrin said. "You're looking at a bigger area than just Jonesboro. You're looking at this whole region, but Jonesboro is the hub within that MSA. So, we're real excited about that."
Perrin said Jonesboro's location has become valuable with not one, but two interstates around the city.
"Last year we were designated with I555," Perrin said. "This year we were able to go to Searcy and do the announcement with our Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer, 67 is going to be the future I57, which will connect to 226. So, we're sitting right here between two interstates. One already here and one in the near future, I hope. So, that helps a great deal for people coming here because they can get here safely on the interstate."
Perrin also said the quality of life offered in the Jonesboro area plays a big role in drawing people in.
"It seems like every day," Perrin said. "We're coming up with some great ideas for quality of life. With having a master back and a walking trail. It's not completed yet, but we've still got the new 3.2-mile walking trail out at Craighead Forest Park. We've got some additional things we're going to add to Craighead Forest Park. We're buying forty more acres that will tie into that which adjoins that. And then with the connectivity of our trails from ASU to downtown and some other things. So, all these things are quality of life. That's going to keep people, hopefully, we think, keep people here and recruit people to come to Jonesboro. The thing about quality of life. A lot of that is safety, too. People feel safe here and they want to go out and enjoy things, particularly in the outdoors."
Perrin said the Miracle League Park is a crowning jewel to the city.
"We were out there Saturday at the Miracle League Park," Perrin said. "That's a three million dollar project. And that park was full, completely full. We had 36 softball teams here. Two were from Tennessee, two from Mississippi and two from another state. They played ball all weekend here. So, you can imagine the motels we filled the rooms with and people who went out to eat. So, that's a good sign. If you build, they'll come!"
The Miracle League Park was designed to allow children with special needs a safe place to play and be included.
Perrin said as great as things are, we're not done yet.
"What I'm hoping for is that we keep on adding to that," Perrin said. "Trying to recruit funds on the private sector as well as through our grants division so we can be adding more things to that. The quality of life here is very good."
Statewide, Craighead County ranked 4th among the top 5 counties in growth. Benton County led the state with a 20.3% population increase during the same time period. It was followed by Washington and Saline Counties for the top three positions. Faulkner County saw the 5th largest growth in population between 2010 and 2017.
- Benton County: 20.3%
- Washington County: 14.3%
- Saline County: 11.4%
- Craighead: 11.1%
- Faulkner: 9.2%
Phillips County in the southeast corner of the state saw the largest decrease in population during the 7-year period, with a loss of 3,183 residents.
Monroe, Lee, Jefferson, and Lafayette also saw significant decreases in population.
- Phillips County: -14.6%
- Monroe County: -13.1%
- Lee County: -12.0%
- Jefferson County: -10.8%
- Lafayette County: -10.2%
In Region 8, Greene and Independence Counties joined Craighead in reporting population gains between 2010 and 2017. Greene's population increased 7.0% with the addition of 2,963 people. While Independence County added 862 people for a 2.4% increase
However, other counties in our viewing area saw their populations fall. Mississippi County experienced the greatest loss, dropping 9.3% from 46,480 people in 2010 to 42,159 residents in 2017. Clay lost 7.2% of its residents, with 1,163 people moving out of the county during the 7-year timeframe.
- Craighead: +11.1%
- Greene: +7.0%
- Independence: +2.4%
- Clay: -7.2%
- Cross: -5.6%
- Jackson: -4.8%
- Lawrence: -5.1%
- Mississippi: -9.3%
- Poinsett: -1.7%
- Randolph: -2.3%