OKOLONA — It will be the first such event to take place in the small town of Okolona, which has a population of around 3,000, but residents, city officials and business owners say the possibilities that the upcoming Oct. 22 investment fair could bring to the area are endless.
“We have low taxes, we’re in a prime location just an hour and 30 minutes from Memphis, two-and-a-half hours from Jackson, four hours from Atlanta, two hours from Birmingham and 45 minutes from Columbus,” said Okolona Mayor Sherman Carouthers. “What I hope is that they see the ideal location or the ideal facility.”
Realtors, bankers and developers from as far south as Jackson, as far north as Memphis and as far east as Birmingham and west as Interstate 55 have been invited to the investors fair. They will be shown various vacant properties in and around Okolona, many of which are in the city’s National Historic District.
Jay Mann, the community bank president of People’s Bank in Okolona and
the economic restructuring chairman of the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce, is excited about the investors fair. He said the fact that Okolona is on the four-lane Hwy. 45 bypass that leads straight into Memphis should be especially attractive to investors. But more than anything, he believes people will enjoy the feeling they will get just touring the area.
“There’s a good hometown feeling downtown when you’re walking up and down Main Street,” Mann said. “All the stores there remind you of older times.”
That hometown feeling is one of the reasons Pat Taylor moved to Okolona from Florence three years ago. When she found the house of her dreams, a circa 1899 Victorian home, she packed her things and headed north. But the house was not the only thing that enticed Taylor to move.
“Everyone’s so nice,” said Taylor, who works as a bookkeeper for the local Ausbern Construction Company. “Only in Okolona can you walk into the hardware store and say, ‘I like that rug. Can I try it out?’ And just put it on a store account. And if you want it fine, if you don’t, bring it back.”
Taylor has become so endeared with the town since moving there that she is helping other residents get everything ready for the upcoming investors fair. She admits, however, that she was somewhat skeptical at first about getting involved with the fair.
“When we first started talking about it, I thought the town didn’t look good enough at this point to have a fair,” Taylor said. “Then I realized that there are many towns suffering throughout the state. If we can get investors interested and get them to come in it’s really going to benefit our town and bring people out. I’ve gotten excited about it and I’m also excited about the historical value of these buildings.”
Of course, Taylor admits, what is planned for the town still has her a bit on edge. But, she said, “I think we all have reservations because this is a new thing we’re trying here. But hopefully it will take off. If we get even one investor it will be successful.”
Patsy Gregory, executive director of the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce/Main Street, said industry is already picking up in the area. She hopes the investors fair will help to keep it on that positive route. More than 1,200 of the surrounding area’s residents are employed in Okolona industries.
“We have 26 industries here, the majority of which are in furniture manufacturing, and we’d like to diversify,” Gregory said. “We’d like this to be a place for people to live, work and shop.”
Carouthers said the investors fair “brings a golden opportunity here to the City of Okolona.”
“I just welcome everyone to the little city that does big things,” Carouthers said.
For more information on the investors fair, call (662) 447-5913.
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.