By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Sturgis hosted a meeting Tuesday night to focus on downtown development and economic growth.
The meeting hall was packed as members of the community turned out to hear presentations from Joe Fratesi of the Stennis Institute of Government and Joy Foy, the director of asset development for the Mississippi Development Authority.
Foy’s presentation focused on how her division has helped towns across the state realize their potential and capitalize on the assets they already have. She highlighted towns like Rolling Fork, Woodville and Canton who have all worked with what they had, from natural resources to local history, to revitalize their towns.
Fratesi’s presentation was on his “First Impression” program that brings in a group of outsiders to a community for a day and then gives feedback. The program focuses on initial impressions of the downtown areas, commercial development, historic renovations, parks and recreation and tourism in that community.
Fratesi pointed out that curb appeal is huge in terms of bringing not only people but businesses in to the community. He focused on the community creating a vision of what they wanted Sturgis to become.
“People want an experience,” Fratesi said. “Whatever experience you want for Sturgis is an experience you need to create.”
The crowd seemed to be intrigued by both presentations. The discussion that followed was passionate, which was encouraging for both presenters as well as Mayor Walt Turner.
“I think the turnout is fantastic. I didn’t count, but it looks like about 80 people in a town of 250 people, that’s just fantastic. That’s unbelievable,” Turner said. “A lot of good suggestions. Looking forward to getting together with a smaller, working type group so we can get some of this down on paper, formulate some ideas and get something started.”
“We had a very good turnout. It’s great any time we come into a community, especially smaller communities and see this many people turn out to support their community,” Fratesi said. “It shows there’s obviously a group here that’s concerned about Sturgis, they care about it, and they want to see it improve and get better.”
Turner said the next step will be another town meeting some time within the next few weeks to come up with a plan of action.
“We’ve been needing this for a long time. There’s really no excuse for not doing a better job, you know? We’re all guilty of it,” Turner said. “We think about it a lot but we really just haven’t put it into action. Hopefully this will springboard into action tonight, that’s what we’re looking for.”