A Banner Year: 2017 Year End Review

2017 was certainly one for the record books!  The Main Street America program saw a ten-year high in community reinvestment. “Despite some media reports about the demise of Main Streets, many local business districts are thriving as a result of sound economic planning and community engagement,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center, which supports the Main Street America communities.

Since 1980, Main Street America communities have reinvested $70.255 billion, created 132,092 new businesses, created 584,422 jobs and rehabilitated 268,053 buildings.

Local Growth

In its 10th year, Laurel Main Street saw record growth as well. More and more people are choosing to live, work and shop in places with a distinct sense of place and strong quality of life.  Over $8.5 million of private money has been invested in the restoration of 14 buildings, 12 business expansions and 22 facade improvements in Downtown Laurel since 2007, resulting in multiple awards from the Mississippi Main Street Association.

The LMS Façade & Amenities grant was created to help downtown business owners refresh and update their downtown buildings. A fully funded grant will reimburse up to one-third of the funds invested in the project by the applicant.  This year, we were able to award over $20,000 in facade grants to downtown business owners.

We are incredibly thankful for the individuals, families, and businesses that have chosen to become a part of the revitalization of Downtown Laurel. Their commitment to growth and positive change is the reason LMS exists, and we could not be more grateful for the 30 new members and 5 new partners who have joined the movement to create a better tomorrow here in Mississippi’s Downtown.

Starting a new business takes a lot of hard work.  We are constantly amazed at the entrepreneurial spirit that lives among us.  It was a busy year, and we were thrilled to welcome 16 new businesses to the downtown community.

The Highlights

Laurel Main Street kicks off each new year with the annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off.  With 28 enthusiastic teams competing and almost 3,000 chili-loving attendees coming out to taste their wares, the 6th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off was our best cook off event yet!

In April, kids of all ages enjoyed our annual Touch a Truck event.  Children and parents enjoyed this unique opportunity to explore vehicles of all types – public service, emergency, utility, construction, transportation, delivery and “fun & flashy” trucks – in one place!

As the temperatures climbed and the summer sun shined fresh produce and homemade goods filled “The Brick Yard” in downtown.  Shoppers found the best of homemade, handcrafted, and homegrown products each Thursday along with an assortment of food trucks.  We are so appreciative of the generous sponsorship from Central Sunbelt Federal Credit Union!  After the market, downtown welcomed droves of movie-goers for Downtown Movie Night, a favorite summertime family tradition, produced by Agape Church.

A little hurricane in the forecast couldn’t keep the scarecrows away!  The 2017 Scarecrow Harvest saw doubled participation and an extra helping of excitement leading up to Loblolly Festival!  Downtown Laurel hosted vendors from across the south, artists, crafters and craftsmen plus musicians and food trucks.  Everyone in attendance enjoyed shopping, festival food, and photos with our lovable Loblolly Lumberjack!

In the fall, activities in Laurel abound as do opportunities to shop local.  We were proud to once again serve as the neighborhood champion for Small Business Saturday, and were thrilled to hear from the downtown retailers who experienced record-breaking sales!

Of course, December Downtown is always a magical time; starting with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Pinehurst Park to the annual Sertoma of Laurel Christmas Parade and Kiwanis Pancake Day.  Laurel Little Theatre‘s showing of The Polar Express movie, the YWCA’s  Victorian Christmas Tea and the Charlie Brown Jazz Christmas presentation, added even more family friendly activities .  The merchants of Downtown Laurel celebrated the Christmas season with an evening of shopping and family fun which included cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, crafts at HAND+made, a live nativity in Makers Alley, and trolley rides throughout downtown!

We were pleased to welcome some special guests to Laurel this year, including the film crew from Blue Magnolia Films which produced a video series celebrating Mississippi’s Bicenntenial.  We were thrilled to host The Market Beautiful not once, but TWICE this year! Historic Downtown Laurel also became an official geo-caching sight, and one of Downtown Laurel’s oldest businesses, Lott Furniture Co.,  celebrated their 100th anniversary.

Whew!  What a year!

Looking Forward

We’re bursting with excitement over the promise of 2018.  You can expect more businesses to open, more events, and more efforts to beautify and restore Historic Downtown Laurel!

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Carrie Cullum

Written by Carrie Cullum

Carrie is a native of Laurel and graduated from R.H. Watkins High School. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Carrie started her social media marketing business, The Social Pages, in 2013. She enjoys partnering with small business owners and watching their businesses grow and succeed!