Thursday, September 7, 2006
Agnew stresses downtown’s importance
Mississippi Main Street has developed into a tremendous economic development tool.
That was one of the points of emphasis during Sam Agnew’s talk in Marshall County August 24. The director of program services in the Northern District for Mississippi Main Street was the guest speaker for the quarterly membership luncheon of the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce.
“People judge the quality of a community by its appearance,” he said. “You have to have a vision – what you want a place to look like. When a building looks good, it’s more inviting.
“When someone drives into your community, what do they see? Make it more attractive. Main Street can help in that vision.”
There are 48 active Main Street programs throughout the state.
Since 1993, the Mississippi Main Street Association has accomplished the following – $1.48 billion in private and public investment, 3,292 new businesses opened, 19,721 new jobs created and 1,773 buildings rehabilitated.
Agnew said downtown is important for many reasons – it’s the reflection of how a community views itself, it represents a large portion of the tax base, it’s the historical core, the infrastructure is in place, it’s a major tourism draw, and it’s the heart and soul of the community.
“Take the assets you have and tweak them and make them productive again,” Agnew said. “Are all your spaces being utilized?”
The Main Street program works due to a four-point approach, he said, which includes organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring.
“It must be a public and private partnership,” Agnew said. “Local city governments are a major partner.”
Cooperative advertising is a plus, generating traffic and sales, he said, and festivals help build a sense of community.
Upper floor housing in the downtown area can be important to any community, he said.
“Not everyone wants a three-bedroom, two-bath house,” Agnew said. “Quality housing downtown has been successful throughout the state. It generates cash flow and income from what had been a nonincome producing property.”
Agnew stressed eight guiding principles of the Main Street program – comprehensive, incremental, self-help, public/private partnership, identifying and capitalizing on existing assets, quality, changing attitudes and action oriented.
He referred to a quote from George McLean, late owner of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.
“There’s no Santa Claus in Washington. There’s no Santa Claus in Jackson. If you want to get it done, do it yourself. It’s your community. You make it what it is.”
For more information, go to the web site, www.msmainstreet.com.
Host for the luncheon last week was Citizens Bank, and CEO and president Tracy Davidson welcomed everyone.
“Thanks for supporting the chamber and thanks for supporting our town,” Davidson said. “Byhalia and the surrounding area are growing.”
Marjorie McKinney led the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation. Rachel Webb sang the national anthem. The meal was catered by PattyCakes. Mayor Scooter Dempsey introduced Agnew.
Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the chamber, and Bill Kinkade, first vice president, made special recognitions and announcements during the meeting, which was held at Northcentral Electric Power Association.
The annual Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce golf tournament is Thursday, Sept. 21, at Kirkwood in Holly Springs.
“It’s the cornerstone of our fundraising,” Kinkade said. “I want to challenge us to make it our most successful ever. Thirty teams is our goal.”
The fall festival, sponsored by the Byhalia Sports Association, is Saturday, Oct. 14, on Church Street. Organizer Janice Wagg said it should be “bigger and better than ever.”
Registration will start soon for the third class of Leadership Plenty. The class will organize in January 2007.
The chamber’s membership drive will start soon. Four teams of four people each will be calling on businesses.
“We want everyone to be involved,” Sawyer said.
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