For the past six weeks, members of the Water Valley Main Street Association have been conducting surveys of the downtown business owners.
“We want to know what is on the minds of our Main Street merchants, so that we can work on those issues that are important to business owners – as well as figure out what businesses as a whole are doing,” said Kagan Coughlin, who serves as chairman of economic restructuring for the local Main Street.
The survey results are based on 58 responses from Main Street businesses. The businesses surveyed account for 209 full-time jobs and another 129 part-time, according to survey results. A majority of the businesses, almost 65 percent, experienced growth in the past five years.
“Clearly Water Valley is growing,” Coughlin said. According to the National Ranking of Adjusted Gross Income, average household income here has been growing at a faster rate than Oxford, Holly Springs, Batesville and Coffeeville. Since 2000, these neighboring cities only showed slight improvement in their ranking, from 0 to four percent, while Water Valley grew by 15 percent.
A majority of the business owners cited such factors as “small-town charm,” “wonderful architecture,” and “good service” as positives about the downtown business district, but the merchants are not confident that the good parts of Water Valley are clear to the casual outsider: only 55% of the survey’s respondents believe that Water Valley has an overall positive image.
Business owners agree the downtown area’s problems as well as the positives: vacant and dilapidated buildings, a lack of business variety, and traffic and parking problems were the top three complaints.
When asked what the WVMSA could do to assist local businesses, the survey respondents expressed a desire for more customers coming downtown and new businesses to fill the empty buildings and create jobs.
“Now that we know what’s important to the Main Street merchants, we’ll work on it – in every way we can think of,” Coughlin said.
“We’ll continue to create special events that draw people downtown, like the recent Christmas Tree Lighting and the pep rally.”
Main Street organizers are also working on setting up a website for out-of-town visitors, and have plans for new signs to attract travelers from the bypass.
“We will continue to promote shopping locally,” Coughlin reported.
Water Valley Main Street Association is a group of local citizens who are willing to spend time and money trying to make sure that the downtown, the heart and soul of our community, survives and prospers.
Anyone who would to become a member, come to a meeting (there’ll be notices in the paper) or drop by the soon-to-be-opened office at 207 N. Main Street.
Oh – and donations? They’re tax-deductible.
(Editor’s Note: If you are a Main Street business owner and did not receive a survey, contact Main Street Executive Director Jessie Gurner at 473-6767.)