John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Como’s interest in Main Street program  good step for town

Wednesday’s meeting in Como hosted by the town’s Rotary Club to provide information on the state’s Main Street program followed an unsolicited compliment about Batesville’s appearance we had heard on Monday.

Ole Miss journalism school dean Will Norton and Mississippi Press Association CEO Layne Bruce took us to dinner as part of a series of visits they are making to MPA member newspapers. As we approached Court Street Catering for our lunch, Bruce said, “You can tell towns that have Main Street associations,” meaning, of course, participation by the town in the Mississippi Main Street (MMS) Association’s program.

Como’s meeting attracted a large audience interested in hearing more about bringing the town into Main Street Association participation. The good news is that Como has already taken many of the steps recommended by MMS. They have created a downtown historic district that has been certified, they have adopted a tourism tax which provides revenue for tourism promotion, they have developed their Christmas in Como celebration and they have established Blues Trail markers to identify significant people and places in the town’s history.

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(Though Sardis was not the focus of Wednesday’s meeting, that city has also already taken several of those steps recommended by Mississippi Main Street to preserve and prosper its downtown.)

Batesville, which has been a member of Mississippi Main Street since 1998, has seen its downtown appearance improve steadily as the city has rallied behind those efforts.

Now, Batesville’s Main Street program is incorporating the Mississippi Delta Street Rods’ Show Off on the Square into this city’s signature fall festival and counterpoint to Springfest in May.

The steps taken by leaders in these three Panola municipalities  encourage preservation and restoration and stimulate economic development. The Mississippi Main Street Association can help direct those steps, making them more effective.

“That’s the reason it this program works so well,” MMS Executive Director Bob Wilson said. “It’s self help.”