Shop Picayune committee prepares to address council

Published 1:08 am Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Picayune’s Shop Picayune Committee met Monday to discuss additional topics before they present more information to the council on Tuesday.

With the city council meeting coming up, the committee talked about the kind of topics members would like to cover with the council. They expect the council to be better prepared after the presentation so the council will be able to give the committee direction to slow the economic leakage.

The premise of the Shop Picayune meetings in the months past was to find out why residents of the Picayune area travel to outlying areas to do the majority of their shopping, also known as economic leakage. Comments shared by the attendees at the previous meetings dealt with the need for retail shops that offer longer hours and competitive pricing. Locals also suggested bringing in quality hotels and restaurants. At just about every meeting someone brought up the need to legalize wine and liquor.

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Monday’s meeting focused on ways to help current businesses build their inventories. Councilman Leavern Guy said the city has money left in its Urban Development Action Grant funds, though the funds would be a loan in this case since Guy will be asking for businesses to pay back the money with interest. If the other members of the council approve the move, then the money could be used by existing businesses to increase their inventories with goods they don’t already have.

Picayune Main Street Manager Reba Bebee said Main Street already has a low interest loan pool for Main Street-affiliated businesses, also for purchasing additional stock. Several banks in the area have indicated an interest in helping businesses with obtaining the necessary match involved with securing the loan.

Guy said the UDAG funds, if approved, would be available to every business within the city limits, whether they are affiliated with Main Street or not. A larger inventory at local shops could mean less travel time for local shoppers.

“If the right inventory is available, I think more people would be willing to shop here,” Guy said.

Committee member Debbie Moore hopes the committee will be able to pick up where Partners for Pearl River County left off. Just as Partners brings in new industries, the Shop Picayune Committee could focus on bringing in new retail businesses.

Since alcohol seemed to be a big concern with those who attended past meetings, Guy suggested the committee could look into getting a vote taken from residents inside the city limits. In the past it has seemed that residents in the county were the ones who typically voted against the liquor referendum.

However Guy’s suggestion may run into a legal roadblock. Former 15th District Attorney Buddy McDonald said that under the present state law the city voters would be unable to vote by themselves to allow liquor to be sold within the city’s limits. He said the vote would have to be a county-wide vote.