March 22, 2007 - Posted at 5:52 p.m. CDT
NEWPORT , AR -- For the past ten years, the four lane portion of U.S. Highway 67 has ended on the north side of Newport. As the next four lane expansion nears completion more motorists will travel through the Jackson County City.
County leaders are looking at a section of farm land alongside Hwy. 67 as prime real estate. Right now it is acres of open fields; however the city of Newport hopes that by building a simple connector road, this land to the west of U.S. 67 would grow more than just crops.
"From Highway 384 to Highway 18, it would run parallel to the interstate, basically a half mile off that would give up some plus 600 acres for us to develop," said Richard Carraway, president of Moving Jackson County Forward.
Carraway's group is working towards securing the two million dollars needed to fund the project they feel will help point Newport to the future. The Newport School District feels the same way. They're interested in building a new $10 million dollar elementary school on one of the sites.
"It was really advantageous to us because there is a lot of land available for expansion and other schools," said Ronny Brown Superintendent Ronny Brown.
Brown feels the location is so good that one day all of the schools in district could be located east of the highway and that this area along the interstate will serve as a positive representation of the city.
"When the interstate is finally completed all the way through people passing through can see a little showcase elementary right near the interstate," said Brown.
In the real estate industry the motto is "location, location, location." For Newport, whose population has been on the decline, they feel the location is the key to future growth.
"I think we have a lot of opportunity out there for some economic development as far as big box retail and small industrial," said Carraway.
Once the four lane is completed, Newport has the potential to be a 67 hotspot for motorists.
"The thing that we are trying to do is bring industry back to our town and a lot of times the first thing an industry will look at is what kind of school you have," said Brown.