Development Board works to move forward with Wyoming Group's suggestions

Friday, August 1, 2014

By Rachel Cook

Staff Writer

At Tuesday's Community Development Board meeting, current board members welcomed Rev. Leland Carden, the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance President and a Vision Plan Steering Committee member, to their ranks. This is just one of several steps being taken to put the Vision Plan and other broad strokes for community improvement at the forefront of the CDB's concerns.

Among other proceedings, CDB Director Mike Wiles gave a short presentation about the final conclusions of what's come to be known as the "Wyoming Group," a team of people from the Wyoming Rural Economic Development Office. They visited here in April 2012 after being connected with Lewisburg's Economic Developer, Greg Lowe, through a conference in Cookeville. Brandon Cammarata, a group member from the City of Cheyenne Planning Department, wrote, "The few days spent in Lewisburg, Tennessee, were a great opportunity and experience. Your community's assets were evident, as well as many passionate members of your community which are a great foundation. Numerous recreation opportunities, natural amenities and beauty as well as proximity to important infrastructure and economic centers are examples of the assets we saw." The other group members agreed, praising things like the quality of the citizen-provided, home-cooked food; the beauty and usefulness of the Rock Creek Walking Path; and the historic value of many town buildings.

While the group admired our community and the steps we've taken for improvement so far, they did note that we suffer from many of the same obstacles and problems faced by other rural communities all over the nation. Communication gaps, difficulty developing entrepreneurship, improving the square, and social issues like drug abuse and generational poverty were repeatedly mentioned in the final report. For inspiration where the square is concerned, they suggested looking to the town of Evanston, Wyo., which has improved its historic downtown over several years, and to the Tennessee Main Street Program. For social and financial aid, the group recommended measures such as forming a nonprofit organization for all the area churches, food banks, and medical facilities to contribute to. And this was only a drop in the 83-page bucket of the report's advice.

Of course, the Vision Plan will do much to improve the square as well as corridors in and out of the city, making it easier for both citizens and interested businesses to enjoy what Lewisburg has to offer. Right now the CDB is focusing on immediate ways to improve city and citizen communication. They discussed open days within the next two or three months for a "Community Input" potluck, to be held somewhere public like Rock Creek Park or City Hall, that would allow anyone and everyone to talk about their concerns for Lewisburg while enjoying some home-cooked food. A phone app for city info, including a digital download of the Marshall Happenings newsletter, is currently being tested; if some small glitches can be worked out, there's nothing to stop the app from going public on both Android and Apple phones.

The board would also like to announce an upcoming seminar for anyone who might be interested in learning about franchising. One of the biggest difficulties when getting new restaurants interested in Lewisburg is that we do not have franchisees in the area that franchisers can contact. The seminar will explain in detail what all of this means, and how local people looking for business opportunities can become franchisees. It will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Lewisburg Recreation Center on Thursday, Sept. 11.