It was a different kind of Annual Meeting last night for Main Street Laurens. Rather than a brief program and Awards Presentations, Director Jonathan Irick introduced a more extensive program giving an initial review of a Community Market Analysis conducted this past fall. Arnett Muldrow and Associates of Greenville studied the market and are preparing an extensive printed report with recommendations for how to best develop the Downtown Area. Irick noted the need to know what type business will mostly likely succeed in the Downtown Area, so that business who do come Downtown will have a better chance of success.
Tee Coker of Arnett Muldrow & Associates made last night’s presentation, assisted at times by Beppie LeGrand, who is Director of the South Carolina Main Street Office.
Coker reported on Downtown Laurens’ strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. He gave extensive information on where customers are coming from, and what types of businesses may have the best market advantage in Downtown Laurens. He also spoke of the importance of developing more housing opportunities in town.
We asked Tee Coker what he considers the most important thing to focus on now:
“I think the biggest piece right now is to actually recognize the opportunities that you have. And hopefully the market data that we’re providing will enable businesses and potential business owners to be able to realize some of those opportunities. I think equally important is for folks to be able to become empowered, to have the tools and knowledge to be able to take those steps to live out their dreams….and really become active members of the community.”
Tee Coker noted the importance of community partnerships. During his presentation last night, he noted how entities like Main Street Laurens, the City and County, the CPW, Laurens First, Piedmont Tec, the Chamber of Commerce and the County Development Corporation are already partnering on community improvement projects.
“That’s one area where Laurens excels. And the community ought to be proud of itself because of all the community organizations. I think that if the community can continue to leverage those partnerships and perhaps do so in a more strategic way, in particular with initiatives such as residential recruitment, I think that you’ll be on the upswing in the coming years.
South Carolina Main Street Director Beppie Le Grande joined Tee Coker of Arnett Muldrow and Associates to discuss a report on research Arnett Muldrow did this past fall to determine where Main Street Laurens needs to be focusing its work.
They presented ideas that stressed the need to work on retention of present business as well as attracting new business to downtown.
Ms. Le Grande suggested using the Historic Courthouse as a focal point, and noted that the upper floor is mostly empty. She encouraged Laurens to look at Gap Financing to help with expanding retail. Tee Coker also noted the importance of residential development for the overall health of the community, and said Downtown needs to become a destination for families.
We asked Main Street Board Chairman John Young for his reaction to the presentation:
“Well I think we’re real close. I think we’ve gotten some good ideas. I think the research that was done was spot on. I think the ideas that were generated very good and I think it’s going to take some time and effort but I think we can implement many if not all of them.”
Laurens Main Street Director Jonathan Irick said the idea of having the market study was to better understand what business would mostly likely succeed by locating in Downtown Laurens.
“Well I think one of the main things Tee talked about tonight was making sure we’re having the community input. Making sure we have other meetings so we can get input and get other people excited about what’s going on. We have a great group of volunteers. We have a core group of members, but it’s time for us to start reaching out to other people. Strengthening those partnerships that we have or maybe some partnerships we haven’t looked at to make things happen.”
Irick said it’s important for Main Street to keep people motivated and ensure that we continue to move forward, and to follow though with plans that are developed.