Holly Springs had a special guest a few weeks back.
Judi Holifield, executive director of Laurel Main Street, visited to get a look at our downtown area and spend some time with Christy Owens, executive director of Holly Springs Main Street Chamber.
I’ve always thought it good to learn from others in the same profession. As a newspaper editor, I’ve sat in seminar after seminar and listened to other community editors. And I’ve visited many other newspaper offices, to see their operations and pick up on some things I could do better.
It’s easy to get in a rut, doing the same things over and over with the same results.
And on a similar note, we see our hometowns every day. We get used to the scenery – the streets, the buildings, the trees, the signs, whatever. We perhaps overlook things that need to be improved.
We get complacent.
Judi is a good friend of the Burlesons. And she has been a huge part of tremendous progress in downtown Laurel, a city of about 18,000 compared to Holly Springs’ 8,000. She was named Outstanding Main Street Director of the Year for 2019. She’s fierce but she’s compassionate.
More than $40 million in private investments have been made in downtown Laurel since 2007.
The downtown there has gone from lots of vacant buildings to none. There are more shops, more restaurants and more parks. And tourism is thriving. There are 29 apartments downtown and three air B&B’s.
Laurel is also the setting for the HGTV series, “Home Town,” with Ben and Erin Napier.
Tourism there is booming.
The Main Street movement in general grew out of a recognition that a community is only as strong as its core. In an era when many people had given up hope about the commercial and cultural viability of downtown, and when suburbs, shopping malls, and big box retailers were dominating the American landscape, this seemed like an unlikely proposition. But, over the last four decades, the Main Street movement has proven that downtowns are the heart of our communities, and that a community is only as strong as its core.
Using the four-point approach of organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring, Main Street communities boost local business from the city center outward.
Holly Springs and Byhalia are both Main Street communities and seeing progress.
Judi also spent some time talking to the Holly Springs Main Street Chamber Board of Directors, plus some city officials and business owners in a meeting at city hall.
One of the questions she asked was, “What would you want to see in downtown Holly Springs if money was no object?” She encourages cities, when looking at their downtowns, to dream big.
It takes a group effort to get it done. Sure, elected officials, business owners, industry leaders, long-time citizens and new residents are going to disagree on some things. But, in the end, it takes teamwork and putting differences aside to get it done. And it takes money.
Perhaps, Holly Springs can pick up a few things from Judi’s visit and we can all help make our city a better place.