By KIM WIYGUL WILLIAMS
Enthusiastic would best describe the atmosphere at Amory’s Main Street Association meeting Thursday night, June 3.
Members of the community met with Main Street Association officials to discuss the future of Amory. Also present at the town meeting were many local business people and city officials. All involved had gathered for one main purpose – to work together to revitalize Amory and develop a plan of action.
Beverly Meng, Executive Director of the Mississippi Main Street Program, spoke to the group about Amory Vision 2010. This will be a 6-year plan designed by the citizens of Amory to outline and accomplish goals of improvement for the city.
Meng explained that the Main Street Program is designed to function with both the help of the public and private sector. Mississippi has the number one Main Street Program in the country. Including Amory, Main Street is established in 47 cities throughout Mississippi.
Program improvements within a city are primarily initiated in the downtown area and carried outward.
Reminding the group that all of their goals won’t be reached overnight, Meng said that revitalization cannot happen immediately. Positive accomplishments take time. The first three years of a plan is considered the start-up period.
Main Street is centered around the actions of its volunteers. Community members must get involved. Committees are designed to make their efforts more focused. These include Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Restructuring.
The program is comprehensive. All four parts must function to obtain the long-term objective. The city will only get out of the program what it puts into it.
Meng stressed the importance of vision, quoting Proverbs, “Where there is no vision…the people shall perish.” She explained that people have a tendency to stay on the path that they are on, whether it is working for them or not. This pattern of behavior must be changed.
Once the city determines its vision of Amory in 2010, a management plan will be set to achieve the necessary goals.
An open discussion was held to determine the strengths and weaknesses of Amory. Participants called out various issues as Meng listed them for the group to review and provide feedback.
A wide range of issues were mentioned, both positive and negative. Positive aspects included excellent schools, medical facilities, regional museum, churches, city park and special events.
Weaknesses were also discussed. Meng explained that these are obstacles in the path of success, and must be considered.
Mentioned were the need for improvement to the condition of some downtown buildings, no public transportation, not being located at a major thoroughfare, litter and needed improvements to achieve better “curb appeal.”
“Appearance is crucial to the economic development of your community,” Meng mentioned to the group. “Your city must put forth a good image.”
Talking with the group about Mississippi’s poor national image, Meng implored the group to remember what a unique and special state we have. She emphasized that the friendliness and openness of our people should be what the nation sees.
This is one of the important aspects that the Main Street Program wants people to also find in their own towns. Citizens are encouraged to promote the positive and actively work to improve the negative.
Participants were divided into small groups. Each team was asked to write a narrative of how they want Amory to be in 2010 – the look and feel, the sights, sounds, smells and ambiance.
This group exercise was an extremely productive time for the members. In an open discussion format within the small groups, ideas began flowing. Individual input and teamwork combined to create excitement about turning dreams into actual goals.
As the noise level continued to rise in the meeting room, it was evident that the exercise was breeding enthusiasm and enhancing community pride. Humor and comradery were also important factors within the groups.
Following the reading of each team’s narratives, Meng praised the groups and reinforced the message of teamwork and effort.
“Progress is made and success is achieved through a community that works together,” said Meng. “The Main Street Program is volunteer intensive.” All citizens are encouraged to participate on any of the four committees
The Main Street resource team will return to Amory, July 12-16, to hold interviews, present workshops and take feedback from the committees. At that time, the resource team will present a highly action oriented management plan. This plan will be the roadmap that guides the citizens of Amory as they turn their dreams for the city into a reality.