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Street Talk

Water Valley – A Great Place For ‘Us’

By Mickey Howley


Last Tuesday morning a couple of Hill Country folks awoke to a Delta dawn in downtown Greenwood. This might sound a bit uptown, but Alexe van Beuren, Coulter Fussell, and yours truly were having a top floor breakfast at the Alluvian Hotel. We were going over the finer points of the talk we were soon about to give at the Alabama-Mississippi Rural Tourism Conference.     
We were the invited opening speakers at this yearly, they said it was the 14th year, event.  Now before you go rolling your eyes, thinking how desperate must those AL-MS Conference organizers be….just letting you know, it was because the Valley has recently earned a regional reputation. In a good way. The word across the state is Water Valley is happening. Now that might be an exaggeration of sorts, but if you look downtown you’ll see way more effort and investment than in the recent past. And the message we had for the tourism folks was, well, don’t fix your place for tourists. Do it for yourself. Do it for “us,” for the people who live in the town – your friends and neighbors. Fix the place because you don’t want to live in a dull, no fun, crumbling and falling apart, gotta go elsewhere to do anything town. Who wants to live in a place like that? Not me and not you.
The message was don’t worry about the tourists. They’ll come if they want to. Make the town the place you want to live and work and shop and have fun.  Alexe had a great impact of tourism example, just the week before a guy driving a brand new Roll-Royce with out of state plates pulls into town. Just FYI that’s a ride that goes well on the high side of a quarter million bucks. He comes in her store and spends $4.28. And then he leaves town. So much for living off of tourism in a small town.
That’s an extreme example, but places like the BTC and Crawdad Hole and Turnage’s and the galleries do bring in many regional (okay Oxford) folks. Those are gateway businesses in that they are locally dependent on Valley people but have an added ability to be a bit of a destination. And that’s where we’re different from a town like Como, which also pulls in folks from the region. The restaurants in Como don’t depend on Como otherwise they’d be in trouble. All Valley businesses depend on Valley people. Where the Valley is different from Como is we have an active daytime Main Street and slowly an active evening one. And that combination of the two has a great long-term impact in value. People want to move here and buy. That means steady or increasing property value for commercial places and nearby residential. That value stability benefits everyone via local taxes making schools, streets, safety, and infrastructure better.
Now that Ole Miss is no longer undefeated—I’m not a LSU fan even though I’m from Louisiana, just always thought that wishing them to “Go to Hell” was bad karma. If you’re looking for good karma and not living for or dying by Rebel football, Bozarts Gallery opens a new show “Altar-ed States” the same time as the Auburn-Ole Miss game this Saturday. A show you should be dying to see and one that is too fun to be in Oxford.

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