June 15, 2016 Edition

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Mayor Charles Snapp (foreground, at left) speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning to announce construction of a Taco Bell restaurant on Hwy. 67B North in Walnut Ridge. Standing beside Snapp is Jackie McClure, franchisee for Taco Bell. Officials from the city, county, Chamber of Commerce and Taco Bell participated in the groundbreaking.

Taco Bell to locate in WR

John Bland

After weeks of anticipation by area residents, the official announcement came Tuesday morning that a Taco Bell restaurant will soon be constructed in Walnut Ridge.

The announcement came in conjunction with a groundbreaking ceremony held at the site that was once the location of Tolson Motor Co., on Hwy. 67B North, for many years. The site is located next to Aaron's, Inc.

"Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County are at a turning point," said Mayor Charles Snapp as he made the announcement. "This will have a big economic impact."

Construction of the restaurant should start in a month, and it could be open in as little as three months after that, Snapp added.

"Taco Bell is just happy to be in Walnut Ridge," said Jackie McClure, franchisee of the primary investment company.

McClure said that without the help of the mayor and county judge, the process of opening a Taco Bell here might have taken as much as two years.

County Judge Dale Freeman told The TD the cooperative efforts of several entities and individuals helped make Tuesday's announcement a reality. He said that Dr. Harold Willmuth donated 175 loads of dirt to build the property up above flood stage. Freeman also said that Roger Anderson loaned a bulldozer, and county and city employees have helped haul and spread the dirt.

Daniel McClure, who will be managing the restaurant, said, "We are glad to be here and really excited." Daniel is currently managing a Taco Bell at the Jordan's Kwik Stop in Brookland.

Jackie McClure said this will be the third Taco Bell franchise for his company, with the other two being located in Jordan's Kwik Stops.

Fran Cavenaugh, executive director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, told The TD, "This is huge, really, for us," referring to the positive economic impact and added tax revenue it will bring.

"This is just a step," she said, noting that other economic development projects are in the works, including last week's announcement that a Tractor Supply Co. store will be opening in Walnut Ridge in the coming months.

"There is more forward movement than we've had in 20 to 25 years," Cavenaugh added.

Snapp shared some statistics at Monday night's Lawrence County Quorum Court meeting on the yet to be announced new business (Taco Bell), that was unveiled the following day. He said the new business is expected to bring in about $100,000 a year in sales tax, $12,000 a year in property tax and $936,000 in payroll for 45 employees.

Several years ago, a Taco Bell operated in conjunction with the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Walnut Ridge.

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