DAVIS: It’s time to fish or cut bait

Anyone who has dropped a line into the water in hopes of catching a fish knows when that point in time comes around when a decision has to be made to continue fishing or head for the house. Despite all the best efforts of bait, location and the skills of the fisherman, sometimes it just isn’t worth it anymore. This is the exact point in time that Benton finds itself.
Too many times in the past decisions about the future of the town have been made with the “here and now” in mind instead of the “distant and future.” It may be prudent to consider the present, but the future is hard to predict. However, one thing about the future can be counted on with certainty: If nothing is done now, the future stays the same as the present. To move toward the future, vision is required.
Benton has a golden opportunity to move toward the future and it must be taken. Right here. Right now. There are two items currently being considered that could dramatically impact the future, if the citizens will have the courage to embrace them.
First, the Advertising and Promotion Commission has recommended a convention/event center be built in conjunction with a major hotel chain on land located between Tinseltown and Tractor Supply Co. Just imagine a multi-story hotel with an attached events center that blend together so as to form the appearance of one building. Imagine the parking lot full of cars. Imagine the hotel rooms booked solid. Imagine where all those people will go to eat, to see a movie and to shop. Next, imagine the jump in revenue the “hamburger tax” will generate from all the visitors. Imagine the ever-increasing percentage of people paying this tax who come from outside the city. Imagine new businesses building alongside to take advantage of the increasing number of customers available in the area. It will create jobs. It will increase revenue to the city. It will help steer the town forward. Basically, it’s a no-brainer.

Second, every measure needs to be taken in order to bring a four-year degree program from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to the community. UALR wants to do it if there is interest, and there is. Check that concern off the list. Will the town do whatever it takes to smooth the road for the UALR initiative? Absolutely. Check that concern off the list. Will the residents do whatever it takes to make this happen? There’s the rub. In the past, perhaps not. But now, the chances are very, very good.
Taken separately, these measures are strong and beneficial for the future of not only Benton but of the county as well. However, when considered together they are a one-two knockout punch for stagnation and complacency. They are the match that lights the fire. They are the powerful drivers of economic growth dangling at the end of our line. So it’s time to fish, not to cut bait.

The Saline Courier Editor-in-chief Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His Sunday column appears at least twice a week: on Fridays and Sundays on the Opinion Page and on www.bentoncourier.com.