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Street Talk

Strong Towns Meeting Set For Nov. 14

By Mickey Howley

It is a subject of conversation you’ll hear from folks who work for the Mississippi Development Authority or the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State or the Appalachian Regional Com-mission. All those entities are charged with the goal of making the state we live in a better place to live and work. And to paraphrase an old TV commercial, “When those folks talk, we listen.”
Because what they are really talking about is economic progress and community sustainability. And that is what we’re interested in, for if any town is consistently losing economically, it is not a sustainable place.
To put it bluntly you might be metaphorically dying and just don’t know it. Take a good look around the region; there are a number of towns way past their “heyday” and not looking like they’ll ever be coming back. And the conversation these economic development groups have is what does it take to make a place sustainable?
State and federal policy makers use certain guiding ideas when making choices that hopefully help development and sustainability. It is not codified in stone, but there are six “Sustainable Communities Guiding Livability Principals” that are presently in general use. In no particular rank, here they are:
One—Provide more transportation choices. Safe, reliable, and economical ways to get around, might make you healthier and spend less on oil.
Two—Promote equitable, affordable housing. Not everyone wants a couple of acres and a new brick house and a 30-year mortgage, so housing has to be diverse and policy should support that.
Three—Enhance economic competitiveness. A lot of this is education and training and opening new market opportunities.
Four—Support existing communities. This is my favorite. Nothing makes more sense then taking care of what you already have before you try something new.
Five—Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment. Wow, that’s a big one and pretty vague, but the essence is people got to work together. At least that’s my read of it.
Six—Value communities and neighborhoods. That’s important as neighborhoods are the building blocks of towns and cities. 
The folks from Strong Towns, people who have ideas about small town sustainability, will be in Water Valley Nov. 14. If you have skin in the game of keeping the Valley strong, make plans to be at the Main Street office from 10 to 11:30 a.m. It’ll be an interesting conversation.
It used to be Thanksgiv-ing that signaled the start of the holiday season, but now it seems that Halloween is now the beginning. I say holiday, but it is essentially the big shopping season. One can lament how commercial it all has become, but the fact is big box stores and big chains benefit the most. And that hurts Main Street, dow-ntown, and the town as a whole. Because that money all goes away. And money leaving the community hurts sustainability.
 It does help executives in other places and other states and their shareholders get richer by profiting from you here, though. And shopping local is how you keep the town strong.
Saturday Nov. 9 is Open House Day on Main Street. Make plans to shop local and keep the Valley growing.

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