BREAKING NEWS – Polar Express operator

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 18, 2015

Construction crews worked Saturday on the Public Square, building forms for concrete to be poured this week.

Polar Express prep, rail operator creating stimulus

Editorial by John Howell Sr.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

(After the following lines were written, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey walked into Monday’s budget approval meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors to report that a rail construction company could begin immediate repair to the rail spur in the W. M. Harmon Industrial Complex for $42,875.
The industrial spur has fallen into a derelict condition. Autrey proposed a cost-share among the supervisors, the city, the Panola Partnership and the Panola County Industrial Development Authority that owns the Harmon Complex to pay for the repairs. Supervisors agreed by unanimous vote to spend up to $12,000 in the cost/share proposal.
The spur’s repair will not only provide rail space for the Polar Express Train Ride to be housed when not in use, it would be an important step to reopen the Harmon Complex for rail shipments to and from its industries, following up contacts that Iowa Pacific Holdings has been making with potential rail customers along the line.)

 Community preparation for visitors who come to Batesville to experience the Polar Express Train Ride should emphasize “quality over quantity,” Mississippi Main Street President Jan Miller said  last week.
“You have the opportunity of a lifetime,” Miller said. “There are going to be people coming in from all over. … The tickets are selling like crazy,” she added.

Miller visited Batesville during Tuesday and Wednesday, including meeting with the Main Street Design Committee which is helping to coordinate decorating with business and store owners and the city.

“We have one chance to make a good impression,” Miller said, speaking to a group of Main Street business owners on Wednesday.

The state Main Street official urged owners of businesses and buildings on the Public Square to clean up storefronts and public frontage along sidewalks and to decorate. She encouraged cross-promotion among businesses and Batesville Main Street using Facebook and other social media.

“For the stores, we want beautiful displays and friendly staff and service,” she said.

“Be open when they are loading that train,” Miller said. “Open up your store; be gracious; be that hostess.” She encouraged merchants to get together and agree on feasible extended hours.

Main Street is sponsoring a window decorating contest that will offer $500, $250 and $150 to first through third places, respectively. Activity surrounding the train rides is also expected to attract non-riding visitors to the Square, Miller said.

Batesville Main Street is creating a special commemorative ornament for merchants.

“The promotion committee is working with Spirit Song Pottery; we’re going to do an ornament that is the State of Mississippi, has a train on it, has ‘Believe’ and has Batesville on it,” Main Street Manager Colleen Clark said. Main Street has ordered 1,000 ornaments that will be available for any store that wants to carry and sell them, she said.

Miller also offered praise for city government: “They are working very seriously; they are working hard to make this a great experience.”

The Polar Express preparation will also carry over to other visitor-oriented events, Clark said, including the UKC Winter Classic in January, 2016, the Blue Tick Breeders of America’s annual Bluetick Days and the St. Jude Bass Classic, both scheduled in May
The 2015 Panola Partnership Fall Forum set for Thursday, Oct. 22 includes a session by Mississippi Development Authority Visit Mississippi Director Malcolm White to help prepare for visitors, she said.