Thursday, June 21, 2007
I’ve seen the Main Street program work.
Several years ago in Aberdeen, the downtown area needed a shot in the arm. It needed some upkeep, some unity, some focus, some development, and so on.
A group of volunteers worked hard to have Aberdeen accepted as a member of the Mississippi Main Street Association. They attained that goal.
A fine lady and longtime resident who loves her community, Glen Houston, was hired as the director. She even lives on Main Street herself.
The progress in Aberdeen, after Main Street in the years I was there, was tremendous. I’m sure the program and the downtown area’s appearance and vitality have benefitted even more from the program since my family left eight years ago.
Mrs. Houston (as I called her) was a regular in my office, and every other business on Main Street. She was always in touch. She was constant in promoting all of Aberdeen. She worked hand-in-hand with the merchants and community leaders to accomplish downtown development and revitalization goals.
I recently learned, at a Rotary Club meeting, that Holly Springs is considering Main Street as a part of its development efforts.
I spoke up at the meeting and told of the program’s success in Aberdeen. It helped bring people together for the betterment of perhaps the most vital part of any community. Downtown is the heart of a town. Its livelihood is a must.
Holly Springs’ downtown area, no doubt, is one of its greatest assets. And becoming a Main Street community could only enhance those assets.
Communities participating in Main Street commit to a comprehensive, long-term, ongoing revitalization effort, understanding that the self-help principle is an integral part of the process.
The four-point approach, outlined by the Mississippi Main Street Association, includes:
1) Organization – The organizational elements bring together the public sector, private groups and individual citizens with coordination by a paid program manager to work more effectively in the downtown and surrounding areas.
2) Promotion – By promoting the downtown in a positive manner, a community begins to focus on downtown as a source of pride, social activity and economic development potential. This involves enhancing the image and changing attitudes.
3) Design – Utilizing appropriate design concepts, the visual quality of the downtown buildings, signs, window displays, landscaping and environment is enhanced. The appearance of a community is crucial to its marketability.
4) Economic Restructuring – This element involves assessing and strengthening economic assets in the downtown business community. Main Street enhances customer attraction by developing ways to upgrade and expand existing businesses and creating an environment that will attract new ones to strengthen the mix.
Existing Main Street communities in Mississippi, in addition to Aberdeen, include Amory, Baldwyn, Batesville, Belhaven Urban, Biloxi, Booneville, Canton, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Corinth, Drew, Fondren, Greenville, Greenwood, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Hernando, Houston, Indianola, Kosciusko, Leland, Lexington, Louisville/Noxapater, Macon, McComb, Meridian, Natchez, New Albany, Ocean Springs, Okolona, Olive Branch, Pascagoula, Philadelphia, Picayune, Port Gibson, Ripley, Senatobia, Southaven, Tunica, Tupelo, Vicksburg, West Point, Woodville and Yazoo.
Obviously, seeing this list, there are more success stories in our state other than Aberdeen.
Holly Springs’ efforts, from what I heard during the recent presentation, seem to be well-thought-out, well-organized. Here’s hoping the plans come to fruition.
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