The COVID-19 pandemic not only caused an unprecedented human and health crisis in the nation but it also possessed a serious threat to financial stability.
Despite job loss throughout the nation, Arkansas County had one of the lowest unemployment rates according to the Arkansas Division of Workforce.
According to David Leech, Stuttgart’s Economic Development Coordinator, employment numbers are still good despite the pandemic.
Before the coronavirus crisis, business expansions were being constructed and new businesses were making Stuttgart home in the last quarter of 2019 through the first quarter of 2020.
Downtown Stuttgart saw a boom in business adding the Rare Hare, Two Sisters Retail Shop, Etcetera Food and Gift Shop and the Stuttgart Sign Shop to the downtown local shopping experience.
Producer’s Rice Mill took ownership of Sage IV Foods.
Producer’s Rice Mill also purchased the SIDC 160 acres on Park Avenue to build one of the largest solar farms in North America.
This project is in association with the Scenic Hill Solar, the same company used by the city of Stuttgart and the Stuttgart School District.
Carter Dental Lab was moved to their new location in the Monsanto Research building and Kelly’s on Main Street moved out giving Stuttgart a farewell.
Wildlife Bar and Grill reopened in March.
Coker Hampton expansion project was completed and open for business at the end of the first quarter.
The Old Town House Motel on Michigan was sold and reopened and Pass on Joy moved into their new store front location on South Main.
As the second quarter hit, the coronavirus briefly put a halt on economic development.
Employees from several local businesses were either furloughed or laid off, including Baptist Health Medical Center and Drummond.
Businesses in town cut down their hours of operations such as Walmart while others closed down temporarily to reassess and readjust.
For businesses like Riceland and Producers, their retail market had high demand.
“Riceland and Producers are running more than 100% to meet demand,” said Leech. “Lennox is doing well but we need a hot summer. All have done a great job with keeping COVID-19 out of their plants.”
The Main Hub, which serves nutrition drinks and supplements, moved in the old Sign It building on Main Street.
“April was a tough month due to the COVID-19,” said Leech. “Sales tax for our town was down as most retail in Stuttgart was closed. Most economic development has come to a stop, but we still made some progress in spite of the virus.”
PJ’s New Orleans Coffee Shop, located on 22nd Street next to Pizza Hut, put their sign up this month with a projected opening date in June.
Sonic received a remodel and farmers are making great progress on getting crops planted, even with the rain.
Mr. Panchos closed but is expected to reopen soon under new ownership.
Even with the economy steadily improving, Leech is still worried about what the upcoming sales tax will look like.
“Sales taxes are down even with the internet sales tax we are now receiving,” said Leech. “May will be a disaster because of the closed businesses and we are always a month behind.”