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Main Street officials tout program benefits

Mississippi Main Street officials pitched the downtownrevitalization program community leaders last Thursday during ameeting at the State Room.

Bob Wilson, director of program services, said the initialpresentation was for city and county officials, economicdevelopment leaders and business and property owners. More than 30people attended the meeting.

“This is way of telling everybody about Main Street Mississippiand how it works,” Wilson said.

During the presentation, Wilson and architects Keith Kays andSam Kaye discussed before and after conditions in a few of thestate’s program participating communities, participation costs, andvarious incentives for property and business owners.

“We aren’t selling the program,” Wilson said. “This group willhave time to hear and talk about it and decide if they want to goto the next level.”

Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfieldtouted current downtown improvement efforts but also cited theadded benefits that could come with participation in Main StreetMississippi.

“We simply don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” Brumfieldsaid.

Wilson said the Main Street program helps communities addressquality of life issues, attract visitors and can make them morecompetitive when seeking prospective industries and businesses. Hecomplimented Brookhaven on its good foundation.

“What Brookhaven has going for it is way ahead of what a lot ofother communities had when they started their journey,” Wilsonsaid.

Wilson said Main Street has 47 active programs in the state and21 member towns. Since 1993, he said, the program has resulted inmore than 18,000 new jobs, more than 1,600 buildings improved, $1.2billion in private investments and $200 million in publicinvestment.

The first-year cost of participating in the program is $10,000,which gradually goes down to $2,000 after a few years. Wilson saidthe community would receive about $150,000 worth of assistance fromstate during the first year.

Wilson stressed the importance of developing public and privatepartnerships.

“Everybody’s got to come to the table to make a program likethis work,” Wilson said.

Over the next few weeks, Brumfield said decisions can be maderegarding how Brookhaven and Lincoln County will proceed. Thepresentation received positive reviews from several in attendancelast night.

Jan Bullock, owner of The Posey Place on Whitworth Avenue, saidshe has a vested interest in downtown.

“This would be a really good thing for me,” Bullock said.

Bullock and Connie Hooper, owner of Engravables on West CherokeeStreet, said a key to success would be participation by banks,businesses and other downtown property owners. They said thoseentities have been supportive in the past and were optimistic abouttheir joining in the effort.

Asem Zeini, president of Brookhaven Little Theatre, which ispursuing a renovation of the Haven Theater, was also impressed withthe Main Street possibilities.

“I think it’s very interesting and very encouraging for ourtown,” Zeini said.