Proposed Highway 18 Bypass Could Hurt Local Business

January 9, 2007--Posted at 6:45 p.m. CST

MANILA, AR--A four lane highway from Blytheville to Jonesboro, it's a goal the Arkansas Highway Department has been working towards for years.

The final portion of that plan could involve a bypass around the towns of Manila, Monette and Black Oak.

While that might be good to the area's economy, it could hurt those town's local businesses.

"Half of our business is Manila, Leachville and Monette, that area. The other half is drive by customers," said Jeremy Gamble of Gamble Home Furnishings.

A few years ago, Gamble Home Furnishings in Manila moved their business from a place in town to a location out on Highway 18.

"We knew we would get a lot more out of town business by being located out here on the highway," said Gamble.

The Gamble's like many other businesses along 18 in Manila, Monette and Black Oak are concerned with the Arkansas Highway Department's proposal to five lane the highway and possibly bypass the three towns all together.

"If it cuts here in front of the store our business will be down for several years for construction. If they bypass us, we will have to rebuild or something," said Gamble.

Retail business isn't the only sector who would feel the pinch of the proposed bypass.

"Everybody tells me, I have the best chicken in the state of Arkansas," smiled Jessie Brandon, owner of the Log Cabin Restaurant.

Jessie Brandon owns the Log Cabin Restaurant. He believes that a bypass would cut his business by at least 50%.

"I'm afraid they would be missing us. I am afraid it would hurt us," said Brandon.

For the Log Cabin Restaurant, Highway 18 is a sign of their business. If traffic is flowing well, then it is going to be a good day, however a proposed bypass around the town they feel could do more than affect business.

"I would sure hate to see it bypassed, because I would hate to see this town die out, it would kill it considerably," said Brandon.

While the towns and their businesses would lose out on valuable customers, Brandon also feels commuters would miss out on a unique portion of Region 8.

"I would feel sorry for them, feel sorry for them missing my chicken," said Brandon.

The expanded highway project is expected to cost anywhere from nine to $48 million dollars.