LINCOLN -- Members of Lincoln Chamber Board of Directors have spent the past year making connections outside the city and strengthening connections within the city.
President Heather Keenen said the Chamber focused on making these contacts at the advice of Steve Clark, president of Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. Clark was the guest speaker for the 2018 Lincoln Chamber banquet.
The Chamber became a member of the Arkansas Economic Development and Chamber Executives, and through this organization, Keenen and Katrina Asher with American Drive-In were able to attend a conference called Breakthrough Solutions in Little Rock. The conference was tailored for smaller communities in the state.
Keenen said she was asked to serve on the NWA Growing Communities Steering Committee, a group made up of mayors, chambers and others in Northwest Arkansas. This committee, along with the NWA Regional Planning Commission, is bringing a conference to Springdale that focuses on smaller communities in Northwest Arkansas to help them network and partner with each other.
"When you're not part of the 'Big Four,' you have different challenges," Keenen said, noting that Lincoln is considered an impoverished area, along with other small towns in this region.
The all-day conference will be held Wednesday, March 13.
Keenen said Lincoln's new mayor, Doug Hutchens, has been a member of the Chamber for many years. She's looking forward to more connections in 2019 with the city of Lincoln and Lincoln School District.
Hutchens and several Lincoln City Council members plan to attend the conference in Springdale and Keenen said she's hoping to receive information "that helps push us along."
Hutchens and police Chief Kenneth Albright were the speakers for the 2019 Chamber banquet.
Hutchens used the time to give a brief update on what's going on in the city.
"Since I've been here, we've had a boom that ended in '07 and a long dry spell that ended up in 2012 through 2015 and we're starting to see a resurgence in house development and lot development," Hutchens told those attending the banquet in February. "We're seeing some affordable housing come out of the ground in Lincoln and we're seeing our commercial space starting to fill out."
He pointed to several people in the audience, such as Bryan Snyder with Byrke Racing, who have taken a chance on Lincoln and refurbished buildings for new businesses.
"That's what makes this work," Hutchens said. "That's what generates our revenue that makes this city go."
Next up, Hutchens said, is to improve the city's infrastructure.
"One of the hot topics is our water system. We're getting ready to spend a lot of money on our water system and getting us through for the next 25 to 30 years."
An ongoing project is a new tank that will hold 2 million gallons of water on Jackson Highway. The City Council is scheduled to approve a bid for the tank and a resolution to issue bonds to finance the project.
"It's something we probably should have started in '07 but you know what happened in '08. We didn't have the funding for even the engineering process or to do any of the land acquisition," Hutchens said. "We just had to kinda kick it down the road. Now we're looking at about a 4 1/2 million dollar project to put in a reserve tank so that we have reliable, safe drinking water and fire protection for now and over the next 25 years."
Hutchens pointed out that Lincoln's water distribution network covers 350 miles of water lines. The city's coverage area is four times the coverage area of Prairie Grove but Lincoln has less than half the users, he said.
"We've got a lot fewer folks that have to share a lot more of the load, so when we start talking about a bond issue to build a water tank we have a big number that is spread out over a small number of people. It's just math," Hutchens said.
To pay off the bond debt, the city has increased water rates by $13.50 per customer.
"That's $165 a year that's going to guarantee you have water, guarantee you have fire protection and also ensure the growth of our area," Hutchens said.
Another need in Lincoln, Hutchens said, is housing. The school enrollment has declined and he attributes that in part to demographics. People are having fewer children. Also, people are moving away from rural areas. This means, he said, Lincoln needs more families to move into the school district to help the enrollment and bring revenue into the community.
However, to get more households, Lincoln needs more affordable housing, he said.
The city now has a new Future Land Use Plan and a Master Street Plan. These will benefit the city in several ways, Hutchens said. In particular, the city will be able to apply for grants. Most grant programs require that cities have these official documents in place.
Turning to amenities in this part of Washington County, Hutchen said "stuff is going on" that will help Lincoln. Wedington Woods has built 20 new miles of mountain bike trails; Siloam Springs is proposing a major water park; Lincoln Lake attracts people from all other; Historic Cane Hill is growing and hosting more activities.
"As those things come around us, more people come through Lincoln," Hutchens said. "Pay attention to how many kayaks and mountain bikes you see strapped to vehicles in Lincoln. It's a path for us to grow."
He noted that young professionals are looking for areas that are close to amenities.
"And we're going to be there. We're getting closer and closer everyday," Hutchens said.
General News on 03/13/2019
Print Headline: Lincoln Chamber Looks To Connect For Growth