By David Howell
Huge strides were taken in the formation of two viable economic development engines in the county in 2007.
The Water Valley Main Street Association and the Yalobusha County Economic Development District (YCEDD) came to life last year – each with numerous bumps and bruises, not to mention political maneuvering as they came to fruition.
The push for Water Valley to become a Mississippi Main Street community started in 2004, following a visit from state Main Street officials who conducted a one-day assessment.
The last breakthrough for the Water Valley Main Street Association was obtaining city funding, a logjam that broke following a verbal commitment in a June 19 aldermen meeting.
“We’re asking the city to consider a request from (the MSA) for $25,000 in funding…we’re asking the city to put it into the 2008 budget,” said Lee McMinn who, along with Jessie Gurner, acted as the MSA’s spokesperson during the June 19 meeting.
“If we don’t get that, then we’re dead in the water,” said McMinn.
With city funding in place, the Mississippi Main Street Association designated Water Valley as its 52nd Main Street community on August 24.
The Mississippi Main Street program is an economic development program based in historic preservation focused on developing Mississippi’s downtowns through a four-point approach: organization, promotions, design and economic restructuring. The Mississippi Main Street Association leads the nation in program success, and it is a designated partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Mississippi Development Authority.
A working county-wide development organization with a paid director has been in the planning stages for much longer – more years than can be counted.
This issue seemingly was brought to a head during politicking prior to the August primary election. The organization actually became a reality when the Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors agreed to solely provide funding for the economic development district, and defined how the board would be appointed.
In September, each supervisor offered an appointment to serve on the new board of the YCEDD.
Nominated by Supervisor Tommy Vaughn in Beat One was Earl Gibson Jr.; in Beat Two, Amos Sims selected Ray Hawkins; Keith Miller was appointed by M.H. “Butch” Surrette in Beat Three; Beat Four Supervisor George Suggs nominated Walt Moore; and in Beat Five, Frank “Bubba” Tillman selected Jane Dean Wortham. Supervisors also selected an at-large representative, Eddie Ray.
Several weeks later, Oakland officials appointed George Booker, Coffeeville officials appointed Mack Dudley and Water Valley officials appointed Bob Tyler to round out the nine-person board.
Tyler was appointed director of the YCEDD in December, leaving one open slot on the board. Water Valley will make another appointment to fill this position in early 2008.
Full Speed Ahead
With both the Main Street program and the economic development district program operational, work is already underway to utilize these resources.
In July and August, the Water Valley Main Street Association started a weekly farmer’s market in Water Valley. Area producers offered their fresh crop – with sellouts not uncommon during the Saturday morning events.
Other events coordinated by the Main Street Association included a holiday open house for Main Street merchants, and a survey of Main Street businesses to identify the needs of local businessmen and woman.
At the county level, YCEDD Director Bob Tyler reported to supervisors during a December 19 meeting that he would work in Jackson to help secure legislative help for the a new regional jail that supervisors hope to land in the county.
With just a few weeks under his belt at his new position, Tyler also told supervisors he had already made contact with a Tupelo company that is seeking to expand.