Since I’ve only been in this position ten months, I don’t really feel that I’m tooting my own horn but then there’s the adage, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will toot it for you!” When I worked for the Mississippi Arts Commission, we often noted that we had let others tell the Mississippi story we should be telling ourselves. So if you’ve been wondering what the Main Street story is and how to get involved, here it is in our own words.
Laurel Main Street is accredited as a 2012 National Main Street Program for meeting the commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Trust Main Street Center. “Receiving National Main Street Accreditation is a prestigious designation and we congratulate each of these communities for its achievements,” said Bob Wilson, MMSA Executive Director. “Our Main Street programs in Mississippi play a strategic role in stimulating economic development in our state.” Accredited communities will be honored at the 2012 Annual Awards Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson. Established in 1980, the National Trust Main Street Center helps communities of all sizes revitalize their older and historic commercial districts and is one of the most successful economic development strategies in America.
All Main Street organizations are evaluated annually by the Mississippi Main Street Association, which works in partnership with the National Trust Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet 10 performance standards. These standards set the benchmarks for measuring an individual Main Street program’s application of the Main Street Four-Point Approach to commercial district revitalization.
Since its inception, Laurel Main Street has generated 35 net services and retail businesses, 10 business expansions to existing businesses, 115 net new jobs, 15 facade rehabilitations, 4 complete building rehabs and boasts 23 upper floor housing developments. Physical improvements include Trustmark and Leontyne Price parks, street benches and tree and flower plantings. Grants for trees, energy efficient street lighting and a soon to be released Walking Tour Brochure have been awarded. More than 7000 adult volunteer hours have been recorded and High School student community service hours through Key Club, Serteens and the Mayor’s Youth Council have been awarded in excess of 1000 hours.
Laurel Main Street has also received the following awards through the Mississippi Main Street Annual Award program, Best Community Impact Project, 2011, Four.One.Five.City Centre, Agape Church; Best Newsletter, 2011, population over 5000, Laurel Main Street News; Best Special Event, 2010, The Loblolly Festival and Best Adaptive Re-Use Project, 2009, The Reserve of Laurel.
The visual improvements to the downtown area will continue as our Façade Grant dollars are made available through application to building owners and merchants. We sincerely appreciate the positive comments concerning the banners and it’s been great to see people walking around to take them in, cameras in hand! Many of you will soon meet our Mississippi State University summer intern, Holly Huntley Cooper, as she makes her rounds to get information and update the downtown directory.
The Farmer’s Market is in full swing at 550 Central Ave. boasting items that are home grown, hand crafted or hand made! Demos on the grill by our local chefs and information from the MSU Extension Services are proving to be market favorites. Third Thursday music is live on the patio at City Centre Crepes and Coffee and Downtown Movie Night is on its way! Before I write again, Laurel Ford’s Cruisin Main Street Car Show will have come and gone. Your partnership, sponsorship and membership contributions are making it happen! Thank you, Laurel, for allowing us the privilege!