Mike McNeill

Mike McNeill is publisher and editor of magnoliareporter.com .

Rex Nelson, who knows as much about Arkansas as any living person, spoke on Thursday to the Rotary Club of Magnolia. He had timely remarks about the upcoming federal census. Nelson is well versed in Arkansas’ demographic trends. His bottom line was that while Arkansas as a whole will gain population, more than half of Arkansas’ 75 counties can expect to lose population. Growth will be confined to three distinct parts of the state: Fayetteville-Bentonville, Jonesboro-Paragould, and the counties in central Arkansas surrounding Pulaski County. The vast rural portions of the state – South Arkansas, the East Arkansas Delta, and the more rural reaches of Northern and Western Arkansas – can all expect to witness declines. In rural Arkansas, the only places that can expect to hold their own will be communities such as Batesville, Searcy, Clarksville, Russellville, Arkadelphia, Monticello and Magnolia. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the one thing those cities have in common. They all have four-year private or state institutions of higher education. Nelson said Magnolia will likely surpass Camden in population for the first time. El Dorado’s population will continue to drop from its current 18,000. Population losses in some rural counties will be staggering. Some will witness population declines of 20 percent or more during the decade – extend those loses over 2-3 decades, and there will be parts of Arkansas that will have lost upwards of half their population in that time. Regions must have a certain critical mass of people in order for rural hospitals, schools and local businesses to remain viable. Vast regions of Arkansas have lost or will lose that viability in the coming years.

Yes, it is important for Magnolia and Columbia County to have a great census count starting in January. Maintaining our current population figures while the rest of the region loses population can help Magnolia tremendously in the next decade.

Amfuel will conduct a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. today for its new spray house. This will be a key development for Amfuel as it moves forward under its new ownership.

A paving crew is at Columbia Shopping Center. The shopping center’s new owners promised major parking lot improvements.

This is finals week at Southern Arkansas University, leading to fall commencement on Friday.

A shout-out to the Magnolia Circle of Friends. The group helped Arkansas Children’s (the new preferred name for Arkansas Children’s Hospital and its umbrella of services) raise more than $274,000 on Friday during a statewide radiothon.

Also a shout to RocketFast Car Wash and its recent fundraiser for the Columbia County Angel Tree. More than 500 cars were washed on Friday and many of the drivers made a financial contribution to the Angel Tree campaign. Owner Don Robertson ( don.robertson1@jimtaylorford.com ) has let us know that he's on the lookout for ways to give back to the community. Reach out to him.

We enjoyed spending part of our Saturday with our church friends ringing bells for the Salvation Army kettles in front of Walmart. It’s always a way guaranteed to run into old friends.

We recorded 2.33 inches of rain in November. The year-to-date total is 44.17 inches.

Remember that you can honor a special classmate or teacher with a memorial or honorary gift to the Magnolia Public Schools Foundation.

Mike McNeill is publisher and editor of magnoliareporter.com. Email him at news@magnoliareporter.com or call him at 870-904-3865.

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