Last updated: July 31. 2014 8:55AM - 311 Views
Jim Willis Target Laurinburg

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The rising temperatures of summer have seen Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremonies heating up downtown, with two in the past few weeks. We are delighted to welcome Main Street Shoe Repair and Scotland Bling to the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation (LDRC) district. They both represent the kind of small, specialty businesses that are best suited for a downtown location: an owner operator who knows their customers and community, offering goods and services with a personal touch while operating at lower cost than in a shopping center.

The major improvements we made last year as part of our innovative effort to improve private property at no expense to owners continues to yield positive comments and seems to be sparking interest and investment. We are anxiously awaiting installation of several more awnings that will complete Phase I and add to the much-improved appearance of Main Street.

As I mentioned in the April article, a committee of our board has worked hard to develop an extensive framework for future improvements that we want to make. The challenge we now face is to balance the spending of the limited taxpayer money we have for brick and mortar improvements verses the more traditional things The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program can do for Laurinburg, like promotions, marketing, matching grants and especially recruiting.

Eliminating an office and staff at LDRC built up some reserves, but we now must budget within our means. A recent bid request for improvements in our Phase II plan came in and we are now working to prioritize those needs to stay within the limitations of our current resources. Our board also recognizes we may need to participate in some other big projects on our wish list like converting the old Exxon property for a new purpose, restoring the Market Furniture building and creating a pass through to off-street parking where a building has been torn down.

Although certainly the work we have done to improve buildings looks better, it is only a means to an end. The ultimate goal remains attracting the kinds of businesses that we believe will contribute to a vibrant, thriving downtown and succeed long term — thus adding jobs and increasing the tax base. Accordingly, we have been contacted regarding two potential major renovation projects downtown and are working to see how we may be able to assist in any way we can with both.

We continue to work on partnerships with other groups to fulfill our mission of promoting the continued economic vitality of downtown Laurinburg. We are assisting Merica Zabitosky with the Laurinburg Police Department in promoting the National Night Out on Tuesday Aug. 5 from 6-8 p.m. in downtown. There will be lots of activities including a DJ, face painting, bounce houses, a clown and much more. The Police Department will have their Fatal Vision Booth, GHSP Seatbelt Convincer and a Safety House. Jerry’s Deli will have food. Ice cream will be available along with door prizes and a 50/50 drawing. The Tuesday Cruisers will be there in their classic cars. There will also be performances by Glamour Athletics, Detonation Cloggers and the Scotland High cheerleaders.

The work of actively supporting the development of new and existing businesses in the downtown area is continuing. It is an on going process that has seen gains and some setbacks. We don’t expect to lure a major retail chain or see a huge private development build downtown. Rather, we will steadily keep working to make historic Downtown Laurinburg not only an attractive, affordable place to do business, but a place that everyone in Laurinburg and Scotland County can be proud of.

As our mission statement states, LDRC will seek to promote the continued economic vitality of downtown Laurinburg by restoring and enhancing the appearance and historic tradition of downtown Laurinburg and actively supporting the development of new and existing businesses in the downtown area.

I hope to see you Downtown!

Jim & Frances Willis own ShirtTales and The Downtown Club on Main Street. Jim is chairman of the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Corporation.

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