In many ways, says South Gloster Area Association President Rob Hudson, the toughest work is ahead of them.
"We need to decide what our next step is beyond the five lane," said Hudson, who also owns the McDonald's restaurants in Tupelo. "South Gloster is a corridor made up of business, but also a great deal of residential and industrial. So unless we look at it holistically, we can't leverage all the assets within the corridor."
The association has brought in Mississippi State University's John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development, which will apply its "First Impressions" program to South Gloster.
Joe Fratesi of the Institute said the program is much like a "secret shopper" program in which members of the staff visit businesses and other places of interest.
They'll find the good, bad and ugly in a community and present the findings.
"We've worked with 100 communities across the state," he said. "It allows you to view your community through first-time visitors as they give their first impressions. It gives you an idea on what to improve on. It helps you set goals and priorities on where to go in the future."
Fratesi said he plans to present findings to the South Gloster group by late fall.
Hudson said the study cost $100, and an association member paid for it.
Fratesi said the study is a useful tool because it provides an outsider's view of South Gloster, perhaps pointing out things that may be overlooked.
"A lot of times in a community, we take things for granted," he said. "Sometimes it helps to have a newcomer see it differently."
Among the findings in other studies are piecemeal policies that don't serve a community as a whole and outdated ordinances.
"People want different things today than they did 20 or 30 years ago," Fratesi said. "And a lot of communities want things, but don't know where to start. People want a unique sense of place, however."
With MSU's expertise, Hudson said the association can focus on specific plans to improve, enhance and revitalize an area of Tupelo that many feel has been overlooked.
"And the amazing thing about all of this is that it's been citizen-driven," he said.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or email@example.com.