Civic, business leaders join business alliance in discussions

From Staff Reports

June 28, 2007 - The first of what proposes to be a regular meeting was held Thursday, June 21, with a gathering of community leaders representing a variety of entities interested in the revitalization of the downtown area.

The Round Table Discussion was organized by the Sulphur Springs Downtown Business Alliance, whose president, Rita Edwards, opened the dialogue and explained the forum.

�We stole this idea from Winnsboro,� admitted Edwards, �They have been very successful with their Round Table, so after talking with Shane Shepard, Winnsboro�s Main Street/Community Development Director, we decided to give it a shot. It�s a unique way for everyone to present ideas, pool resources and energy to attain our goals.�

The turnout included civic and business leaders from the community, such as City Manager Marc Maxwell, Sulphur Springs Mayor Yoland Williams and other city staff members, Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors President and City Councilman Freddie Taylor, Guaranty Bond Bank President Craig Roberts, Chamber board member and Century 21 First Group's Deborah Wright, representing local realtors, Sulphur Springs/Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Director Roger Feagley, County Commissioners Danny Evans and Beth Wisenbaker and others.

A number of ideas were tossed around that would help in attracting people to the downtown area. Music events, brown bag lunches, tailgate parties before home high school football games and a Chamber mixer were just a few of the ideas talked about. It was also announced that there are several new restaurants showing interest in the downtown area.

When asked what would be the most effective mix of business and activities that would make for a successful downtown, City Manager Marc Maxwell said it calls for a ‘yogurt’ combination — a live culture allowing a mix of activities for people to live, work, and play downtown.

�We have a thriving daytime business climate in Sulphur Springs,� Maxwell said. �However, the sidewalks roll up at 5 p.m., and we need to attract things that will extend the nightlife and offer forms of recreation downtown at night and on the weekends.�

When asked about the "living" segment of the yogurt theme, the response was that, traditionally, loft apartments and other types of living arrangements in a downtown area were more successful following the establishment of a vital nightlife in the area.

It was decided to hold round table discussions once a month to bring other issues, ideas and projects for consideration, and to be joined by those that were not able to attend.

�It�s just so great to see everyone sitting down at the same table and working together for the same purpose,� said an excited Edwards. �We�re all working toward the same goal, but just must be reminded of the �big picture� sometimes and made aware that we all need to join hands to accomplish our goals. A group of organizations can accomplish what one individual or group can�t do alone."

The Sulphur Springs Downtown Business Alliance hosted the meeting, held at Plain N’ Fancy Sandwich Shoppe and catered by Sandi Wallace, owner.

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