Today's blog is going to be a little bit different from the blogs I usually have on The Happy Arkansan. Today, we are going to get real about the town I live in.
I live in a small city in Arkansas called Forrest City, AR.
Due to Forrest City's proximity to the interstate, it used to be a huge manufacturing hub with a bustling downtown, and so much more.
In the 1990s, this started to decline over time as more companies moved away from our city in search of lower prices, or due to other issues.
In the picture above, I am standing in front of the old Sanyo building in our town.
Sanyo still exists today. The only presence they have left in Forrest City is an abandoned building and a road named after them leading into a sparsely packed industrial district.
It seems they made a significant impact on this town, but unfortunately, they don't make anything here anymore.
Sanyo wasn't the first to leave, but they started leaving around 2007/2008, and are now entirely gone.
Stories Of Industrial Past
My parents have lived near here all my life. They have some interesting stories of companies who used to call Forrest City home.
There was a company called Reltoc Manufacturing that closed doors in our town around the time I was born with nothing but a note on the door.
There was also a company called Thorn Apple Valley that left in 1999 after a listeria outbreak plagued the plant and the USDA had to step in and stop production.
Many other plants have come and gone and left a city built up by manufacturing to pick up the scraps. I'd be lying if I said the city was doing a great job of it all.
The truth of the matter is, we have jobs, but not great jobs.
My parents are fortunate enough to work at some of the best places to work in the city. I am ever so grateful for that.
Most jobs here are fast food jobs like McDonald's or Taco Bell. Those jobs aren't meant to support families or growth.
There are are also some jobs in the manufacturing space, including a food production plant and a boot factory.
The issue, though, is that there is still 30% of our population living under the poverty line.
It seems that the jobs we have can't keep up with the money we need to earn.
The Gentrification Conversation
Ever since I came back from my trip to Atlanta, Georgia, gentrification has been on my mind.
Atlanta is growing, but it's causing a ton of issues. Prices are going up, and it's pushing out long-term Atlanta residents.
To live in a great part of town, you need money. Many Atlanta residents aren't making the money necessary.
Listening to the stories of residents while I was in Atlanta, got me thinking about my town.
Is there are a way to get the best of both worlds?
Can you have investment without gentrification?
Is gentrification just a price you have to pay so your town isn't divested in?
Ultimately any move done by a city to invest needs to be a conversation.
- How can we bring in investors without costing the city a ton in tax incentives?
- Can we bring in a new company without driving up the rent?
- Is there a way to keep the people who call our city home while still bringing in new companies?
I am convinced there has to be a solution to these issues.
It can't be as simple as there is no solution, right?
Let's Work To Find Solutions
I don't have all the solutions to my town's problems.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and have a more sustainable economy for those in my town.
One thing I love about the work I do is that I work from home.
I spend money in my town as much as possible, but I know I could do better.
We aren't all in government; we can't make high-level decisions.
Shopping small is a great way to invest more in your town, though.
Let's strive to:
- Shop small when we can
- Shop at companies who decide to invest in our towns (if they are trying to invest in the community)
- Listen to others in our communities who have seen all its changes
I Am Not Sure Where To End This Conversation
This ramble is not something I usually spotlight on this blog.
You have seen so much of my city in glimpses in the background of images.
I need you to understand where this city is and where many of us want it to be.
It has changed so much over the years, and things need to change so that it progresses.
I am not one to encourage manufacturing jobs. Those jobs are gone, and won't return.
Instead, I want my city to look toward the future. To invest in technology.
We can repair the infrastructure we have, split it up to bring in multiple companies if we have to.
I know there has to be a way, as long as there are amazing people to fill the spots.
We cannot give up or let cities falter in the face of technology.
P.S.: I will be giving you all the details on this outfit later this week when I share the full photo shoot we did this weekend!