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Consultant offers downtown ideas

Now Thomson has a blue print for building up the downtown area.

Tuesday afternoon in the Depot, Bill Russell of the University of Georgia's Fanning Institute and his wife Vicki Russell of the Small Business Development Center presented findings from the market analysis they conducted on Thomson's downtown district.

The Downtown Development Authority, public officials and citizens listened in as the couple shared the results of a survey and how those results should point toward growth.

"Members of the Downtown Development Authority, this is what we asked for. Now we've got some work to do," said DDA Chairman Kenneth Usry. "...We needed something to get us started, and Bill and Vicki have done that today."

The survey - conducted in a 45-mile radius from downtown Thomson - pointed to a need for convenient parking; safe and attractive streetscapes and storefronts; full-service restaurants, and cultural activities.

Many of those surveyed said businesses such as a performing arts theater, steakhouses, cafe and shops open on weekends would bring them into the town center. More than 38 percent of those surveyed said they currently don't come to the area, and nearly half said there was nothing to draw them there.

Mr. Russell said the next step for local leaders is to develop an incentive package. He said they should first identify desired businesses then find buildings for them. That process could take two years, he added.

"The downtown area is the economic hub of the county," Mr. Russell said. "...It's a holistic approach. I think you're smart in saying 'Let's focus on the downtown area.'"

Web posted on Thursday, December 15, 2005


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