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OPINION | EDITORIAL: White Hall on a roll, undeterred by crises

by Byron Tate | January 1, 2021 at 2:48 a.m.

With a population that tops 5,000, White Hall has been the recipient of quite a bit of growth over the past several years, and 2020 was no different.

If it's a new place to eat or spend the night, White Hall has been the place to be. In the past year, Colton's Steakhouse opened, and even with the pandemic, the parking lot always seems busy.

The d riving force behind a lot of the expansion is Umesh Patel, who brought in the area's only Dairy Queen, as well as a Holiday Inn Express.

Whenever Patel is asked about White Hall, he always sounds excited to be doing business there. And he's not done. He announced in 2020 that he was going to build a four-story, $10 million-plus TownePlace Suites by Marriott. The hotel will have 80 rooms and will be designed for travelers who need an extended stay.

Along the same stretch of U.S. 270 in White Hall, Relyance Bank is planning to build its new headquarters. The bank has outgrown its offices in Pine Bluff and is now looking at constructing a three-story, $15 million space across from Smart Motors.

Pine Bluff opened a new flagship library on Main Street, but as part of that new construction, all of the branches got upgrades, including White Hall's. Patrons have been quick to say that they love the changes that the $270,000 revamp brought.

At City Hall, officials announced the delivery of a new $400,000 custom-made pumper firetruck. We can let ourselves take a firetruck for granted, but obviously, with that kind of price tag, this is a big deal for a city of any size. And it's acquisitions like this that help keep fire insurance ratings at the lowest level possible, which translates to having lower insurance premiums for business people and homeowners. And Fido will appreciate the fact that a city dog park is also in the works.

There was also expansion news coming out of the Pine Bluff Arsenal. ReadyOne Industries announced in 2020 that it was starting a production line making clothing that protects against biological and chemical agents. The company is hiring disabled people if at all possible, and it's looking at a workforce of some 120 employees. If all goes well, the company also is hoping to expand.

And then there was the White Hall School District, which broke ground a few weeks ago on several projects, which are being funded by a 2.9 mill tax increase that will bring in $25 million.

And let's not forget the two cannabis-growing businesses that are setting up shop near White Hall, with millions of dollars in investments and lots of new jobs.

With all this business going on, the demand for housing is apparently increasing as well, what with the multitude of new housing starts being planned or underway.

And finally, to facilitate some of this increased traffic along 270, the state Department of Transportation is planning to widen the highway about 2 miles toward Sheridan to Arkansas 104 at a cost of $20 million.

All in all, it was an impressive year for White Hall, and taken along with what happened in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County this year, one might almost overlook the fact that there was a pandemic putting a damper on everything. Congratulations to White Hall's city, education and business leaders on jobs well done.

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