In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, thousands of downtowns fell by the wayside. While housing and highway construction was booming, downtowns were crumbling. Empty stores, boarded up buildings and deteriorating neighborhoods lined the streets that once were the center of community life.
By the late 1970’s, people realized that the modernization and urbanization which they had welcomed in the name of progress had wreaked havoc on “main street.” Nationally, a desire to recapture the sense of community that had been lost to downtown decay led to the formation of the Main Street Program. In our state, the Mississippi Main Street Association, a private, non-profit organization affiliated with the national Main Street Program, was formed to provide community support and encourage revitalization of downtowns based on historic preservation and sound business practices here in Mississippi.
Why should anyone care if our downtown areas are restored? Each of us must answer that question for ourselves. From a business standpoint, revitalizing our downtowns across the state is a vital and integral part of economic development. Investors, whether they be industrial, small business, retirees, tourists or just citizens, are not attracted to, nor do they want to invest in a community that has a deteriorating downtown area.These investors view downtown as a reflection of the quality of life that the community would offer as well as a reflection of the quality of local leadership.
Since 1989, the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) has signed 31 communities into the program. Their efforts have resulted in:
• Over 1,500 new businesses coming into these communities,
• 977 buildings rehabilitated and returned to the tax roles,
• 15,000 new jobs created
Towns all across Mississippi are joining the Main Street program. From Corinth and Olive Branch in the north to Ocean Springs and Biloxi in the south, community leaders are rising up to reclaim their downtowns. MMSA provides an organized program to help communities re-establish their uniqueness and their local heritage as reflected in the older buildings and structures on the town squares.
Last week, MMSA held their annual meeting in Jackson. Following the luncheon, Governor Musgrove called a press conference to announce that MMSA had achieved over $1 billion in private/public investments in Mississippi and has been named the number one Main Street association in the U.S.
The top ranking in the nation was achieved by the statistics showing that the cost to the state of each new job was $109, compared to $1,880 nationally. It is small wonder that MMSA and Governor Musgrove were basking with pride after topping the national statistics 10:1!
The Mississippi Business Journal applauds the efforts and successes of the Mississippi Main Street Association. As stingy as we are with our support for spending taxpayer dollars, truly this is a program that is working efficiently and effectively and deserves to be continued.
THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
— JAMES 4:17
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.