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Gulfport native tapped for MS Regional President of Hancock Bank

Keith Williams

Gulfport native tapped for MS Regional President of Hancock Bank  

By Chris Thies

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport native Keith A. Williams has been named Mississippi Regional President of Hancock Bank. The bank called Williams “one of South Mississippi’s most experienced bankers and community leaders.”

Williams started his career at Hancock Bank nearly 29 years ago. In that time, he has served the company in many ways, including several officer and senior-level management positions.

“Keith Williams, like Hancock Bank, is South Mississippi born-and-bred. He is an ideal fit to lead all of the business segments that make up our Mississippi based banking organization. He understands the area, the state, and our citizens and has the know-how to guide our bankers in helping local people achieve their financial goals and dreams,” said Chief Banking Officer Edward G. Francis.

Williams is an alumnus of Gulfport High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Delta State University. He was inducted into the DSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. He is also a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking at LSU and the Mississippi School of Banking.

“Keith is Hancock’s Mississippi voice and a strong, clear voice for opportunity across the market,” said Francis. “He has been integral in building the nationally recognized strength and stability that sets apart Hancock Bank as a Gulf South banking leader.”

Williams also has a long record of service to his community. He has served on the Gulfport Planning Commission for 11 years, is on the board of directors for the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic and is active in the Mississippi Main Street Association.

State Main Street president says New Albany program one of best in state

State Main Street president says local program one of best in state

New Albany Gazette

New Albany’s Main Street program is one of the biggest successes in the state, according to the president of the Mississippi Main Street Association.

Suzanne Smith made the comment at the local organization’s annual meeting and awards luncheon this past Thursday.

The guest speaker, introduced by long-time Main Street supporter and former state Main Street official Billy Wiseman, in addition to serving as current president of the Mississippi Main Street Association, is Senior Vice-President and Western Region Retail Administrator for Renasant Bank and has been active in the Main Street program for several years. She not only served on the board but this is her second term as state president.

Smith said she got her start in Main Street in Tupelo and once you get involved “you are always a part of it.” She complied Duke on the job she is doing as New Albany’s manager.

“We have two manager-directors on our board and Vickie has just completed a two-year term,” she said. Since some of the board don’t have manager experience, Smith said they help provide needed information to the board.

She noted that New Albany’s Main Street program has a 20-year history of success. “It is a fabulous town and a beautiful downtown,” she said, noting there is almost no vacancy and more than $8 million has been invested in revitalization and improvement.

Smith next listed some of the reasons she believes it is important to be a part of the state Main Street organization.

“Number one, we’re the link between several organizations (such as the Mississippi Development Authority),” she said. Next was Main Street’s partnership with the MDA and director Glenn McCullough. “They’re out largest investor. He is restructuring MDA and we are restructuring Main Street to a degree. Without him, we would not be as successful as we are today.”

Smith said she had told McCullough he did not just have to give money to Main Street, she said. “I want to earn your investment,” she told him.

Another benefit of the state Main Street is that they can provide design and other technical help. Smith said they prefer to use local designers but can bring in outside resources when they need to. “We have great resources in the state and want to keep Mississippi dollars in the state,” she said.

Another service she mentioned their interaction with the legislature. “We educate the legislature and shepherd them,” she said.

Perhaps most effective at the local level are the workshops and networking that provide answers to common problems, she said.

“I do want to encourage you, if you have any questions bring them to Vickie or call me,” she said. “Every one of you makes a difference in the Main Street program.”

Although Smith said the state organization is going to be restructured, “We’re not going to get away from our four-point program.”

Main Street has four standing committees and areas of emphasis: design, economic restructuring, promotion and youth.

“We want to become self-sufficient but will always need MDA as an investor,” she said.

“If you work for the program the program will work for you,” she said.

And a Main Street supporter does not have to agree with everything that is being done. One can even be “an aggravated active volunteer,” she said.

“You’re the reason New Albany is as successful as it is,” she said. “You are one of the shining stars and you have been shining for 20 years.”

Prior to Smith’s comments, New Albany Main Street Manager Vickie Duke presented this year’s awards.

The Service Award, given for service to and support of downtown efforts went to the Pilot Club of New Albany with Duke noting their especially valuable work on the farmer’s market and second Saturday programs.

The Revitalization Award went to Chuck and Rhonda Cooper for their renovation of the former Winders Hardware building to serve as the new Van-Atkins Jewelers.

Duke presented the President’s Award to supervisor Benny Rakestraw “for his leadership, support and commitment, showing creative approaches to problems since 1996.”

In a brief business session, president Bob Spencer said one board position needed to be filled. Attorney Thad Mueller’s term was expiring but he recommended Mueller for another three-year term and said Mueller, who serves as treasurer, will willing to serve again. The nomination was unanimously approved.

Spencer also noted that board member Benny Rakestraw will be going off the board at the end of the year when he retires as Fifth District Supervisor. “He’s been on the board since, I think, the second meeting. He not only sits in the chair, he goes out and works. We really appreciate what he has done,” he said.

Perhaps Main Street Vice-President Colt Doom summed up what Main Street has done as an organization in his welcome to those attending: “Doesn’t downtown look great!” he said. “We wouldn’t be as successful without your support.”

The New Albany Main Street board includes Bob Spencer, president; Colt Doom, vice-president; Nancy Kidd, secretary; Thad Mueller, treasurer; Billy Wiseman, director emeritus; and members Glenda Conlee, Ellen Staten, Benny Rakestraw and Scott Dunnam.

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Water Valley Main Street represented at White House Convening on Rural Placemaking

White House

Street Talk
North Mississippi Herald
By Mickey Howley, Water Valley Main Street Association

For a fistful of dollars or a sponsored ticket you can go almost anywhere quickly. Southwest Airlines has this fleet of short wide Boeings that they herd folks off and on. There’s no assigned seating and just like when I was a kid running for the back seats on the bus, I go for the rear. Last row window seat is my favorite. Can’t lean back and legroom suffers, but the view is the best. Looking forward, the wing divides the view by perfectly blocking the far horizon. Makes a split screen view, below the wing the earth unfolds, a constant sky above the wing.

So two Mondays ago, I flew before dawn from Memphis to Chicago and then on to Washington DC. The final approach at Midway was from out over Lake Michigan with the arc downtown Chicago sliding by. Another over water approach at DC, heading upriver over the Potomac to touchdown at Reagan National. Those cities sprawl on land but are truly defined by the hard edge of water.

I’ve never seen Water Valley from the air except from Google maps or Jack Gurner’s drone photos, but we all know the Valley is defined by water as well. And while Chicago is defined by big shoulders and Washington by its big power, the Valley is the definition of small. But we’re not alone in small. There’s a lot of small out there. Towns and places under 5,000 people. Bantam towns if you will. Just in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia alone there are a thousand towns that small. To be sure many are Water Valley size but many are very small places.  Think Velma. But last week, we…and I mean the collective we of the Water Valley and our Main Street Association..were at the White House representing small towns and speaking small power to powerful.

Call it placemaking or community building or whatever, but it is about making your town a good place for all who live there. And that’s the power of small, because small can be nimble. That any number of things can be done quicker, cheaper, and faster (not forgetting quality though!) that can make a place better. There isn’t the inertia that big city size has. That if you want to look for innovative change, to folks willing to try things, small is where it is at. And it is my gut feeling that there are more people in small places, relative to overall size, who are willing to be an active part.

This daylong meeting was called “The White House Convening on Rural Placemaking”. The people there were not only White House policy types but folks from government agencies like the Budget Office, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Transportation, National Endowment for the Arts, Environmental Protection Agency, US Economic Development Administration, US Housing and Urban Development, Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Delta Regional Authority. And good folks from non-profits like National Main Street, Project for Public Spaces, the Orton Foundation, Recast City, Strong Towns, Smart Growth America, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the Rural Policy Research Institute.

It felt like an honor. How Water Valley got there, I guess was a little luck, you know right place right time, and a lot of hard work. By everybody in the Valley. I had five minutes to speak. To be sure there were four other Main Street folks speaking, but they run the National program or state programs. Water Valley was the only Main Street town speaking. In those five minutes I tried to give folks a feel of how small efforts can lead to greater impact, how bringing back what is already there, re-using it differently, is far better then tearing down. That small is more than fixable, it can be fun. How economic vitality is central. How downtown, even in small places, is the key to the whole community doing well, and how we all need to hear each other and work together.

I quoted three people in those five minutes. Paraphrasing poet W.B. Yeats about if the center cannot hold, things fall apart. Directly quoting former governor Haley Barbour about how “Mississippi needs to get up off its assets.”  And saying Yalo Studio owner Coulter Fussell’s observation about creative opportunities in places like Water Valley, “That if you are willing to work hard, to sweat, and have the patience of Job, the forgotten small town can be the new frontier”.

Tupelo and Vicksburg named Semi-finalists for 2016 Great American Main Street Award

The 2016 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalists

By National Main Street Center | From Main Street Story of the Week | September 11, 2015 |


This past week, we had the pleasure of revealing the ten 2016 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) semifinalists on Facebook and Twitter. It’s one of our favorite weeks of the year because we get to see the reactions of Main Street organizations, local residents, business owners, and city staff, and how they rally behind each semifinalist as they’re announced. Post after post of congratulations, thanks, words of support—coupled with more than a few superlatives and exclamation points—poured in each day.

The praise is much-deserved—all together, this year’s semifinalists have generated over three billion dollars in public and private reinvestment, while creating 10,690 new jobs, opening 1,262 new businesses, rehabbing 1,237 buildings and clocking 309,918 volunteer hours.

“GAMSA represents the pinnacle of community achievement in the pursuit of downtown and commercial district places in which people want to call home, work, launch and run a business, and enjoy their leisure time," said Matt Wagner, NMSC Vice President of Revitalization Programs. “This year’s winners stand as national models of how communities can thrive through innovative leadership, smart execution of revitalization strategies, and dedication to preservation-based economic development.”

We look forward to announcing this year’s winners in May 2016 at the National Main Streets Conference in Milwaukee. So without further delay, here are the 2016 GAMSA semifinalists, in alphabetical order: 

Audubon Park Garden District, Orlando, Florida

Year Founded: 2009 | Population: 1,992 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 4

audubon_GAMSA 2016
East End Market’s Skyebird Experimental Kitchen is just one of the new businesses built here since the
creation of the Main Street program. ©Steven Miller Photography

Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District is almost single handedly responsible for the vibrancy and economic vitality of the district.  Prior to the establishment of the Main Street organization, the area was dominated by tired storefronts.  In just six years this district has attracted close to $4 million in private investment and boasts an astounding public to private investment ratio of $1:$326.  Today the district has developed into a food hub recognized by numerous publications, including The New York Times, Southern Living, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune

Bastrop, Texas

Year Founded: 2007 | Population: 7,218 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 62

bastrop_GAMSA 2016
A view of Bastrop’s historic Main Street. © Sleeping Owl Photography 

With over 130 sites and structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a commercial historic district, Bastrop has placed a strong emphasis on preservation.  Not long ago, however, many commercial buildings were largely ignored by absentee owners and had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Since the Bastrop Main Street Program started, those tattered remnants of a prosperous past have turned once more into a central business district bustling with activity.  Through a façade grant program, the district was able to assist in the rehabilitation of 39 buildings in the district.

Covington, Kentucky

Year Founded: 2003 | Population: 40,640 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 15

covington_GAMSA 2016
A look down Covington’s snow-covered Madison Avenue in winter 2015. © Thomas DiBello

Since their inception in 2003, Renaissance Covington has completed a number of large-scale initiatives, including a streetscape project on a key corridor, the implementation of a strong façade rehab program, and restoration of a key historic downtown building nearly destroyed by a fire.  While maintaining a strong commitment to the Main Street Approach, the organization has continued to evolve into more of a grassroots strategic initiative looking for creative solutions.  In 2014, Renaissance Covington met nearly all yearly goals outlined in their five-year strategic plan.

Dahlonega, Georgia

Year Founded: 2000 | Population: 6,049 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 22

dahlonega_GAMSA 2016
A couple takes a romantic afternoon stroll in downtown Dahlonega. © Chloe Giancola
Downtown Dahlonega is the regional destination for parades and festivities. © Brad Killer

With the University of North Georgia located right in their own backyard, Dahlonega Main Street recognized what an asset they had and has worked closely with the University to offer classes for business owners on marketing, business planning and financing among other topics. They also worked together with the University on a mixed-use building which included dorms, parking, and private business space.  In just 10 years, Dahlonega Main Street has created almost 300 new jobs, rehabbed 180 buildings and collected over 52,000 volunteer hours.

Grapevine, Texas

Year Founded: 1991 | Population: 46,334 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 14

grapevine_GAMSA 2016
Grapevine Main Street becomes the Christmas Capital of Texas® each November and December, bringing over 1 million visitors to Grapevine for holiday fun.  In this photo, people are beginning to gather on Main Street for the Parade of Lights, the largest night-time Christmas parade in North Texas! © Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau

Located just 23 miles from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Grapevine Heritage Foundation has worked tirelessly to make the city a great place not only for its residents, but for the 15+ million people that visit the community each year.  Taking a unique application of the Main Street Approach, they have utilized existing assets for their committees, including Grapevine Heritage Foundation (Organization), Historic Preservation Commission (Design), Historic Downtown Grapevine Association (Promotion & Economic  Revitalization) and the Grapevine Township Revitalization Project (Economic  Revitalization).  Perhaps the most notable outcome of the $125+ million in public and private investment is that there are people on the street every day of week, both day and night.

Howell, Michigan

Year Founded: 2005 | Population: 9,505 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 8

howell_GAMSA 2016
An aerial view downtown Howell. © Richard Lim Photography

When Howell Main Street first started, they quickly recognized a problem in the district--the majority of downtown was occupied by personal or professional service-based businesses that did not attract people.  Today, you will find shops unique to Howell and eateries that offer quality dining experiences.  As a result, the district has seen an increase in demand for downtown housing, so Howell Main Street is working closely with the City, property owners and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to rehabilitate upper story units into additional living spaces.

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Year Founded: 1993 | Population: 17,950 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 30

los-alamos_GAMSA 2016
Los Alamos Town Site, as seen from a distance. © Leslie E. Bucklin

Once home to the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos MainStreet continues to build on the city’s reputation as a hub for innovation and invention. This couldn’t be more evident than in their signature promotion event, ScienceFest.  In 2015, ScienceFest saw a 60% increase in sponsorship and grants and raised attendance by 200%.  Los Alamos MainStreet recently launched a façade improvement revolving loan which allows businesses to receive up to $25,000 at 0% interest.  In the first four months alone, the program has funded three businesses at a total of $48,000. 

Shaw District, Washington, DC

Year Founded: 2003 | Population: 9,842 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 54

shaw_GAMSA 2016
City Market at O development, located in the heart of Shaw, incorporates a Public Market building built in 1881. © Shaw Main Streets

In just over one decade, Shaw Main Streets, Inc., has worked quickly to turn around four decades of disinvestment in the district.  Since 2003, 173 new businesses have opened in the district and millions of square feet of new retail, commercial and residential development have replaced empty lots.  Over $2.65 billion has been invested by the public and private sector, and the district is widely recognized as the DC’s fastest growing dining and entertainment destination, and most exciting residential neighborhood.

Tupelo, Mississippi

Year Founded: 1991 | Population: 34,546 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 47

tupelo_GAMSA 2016
A view of Main Street Tupelo. Tupelo is famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. © Lance Ingram, Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau

Though Tupelo Main Street has received 58 awards for its work, its real honor is the impact it has had on people’s lives.  This couldn’t be more evident than the fact that today, upper-story housing in the district is at 100% occupancy and the organization has surpassed 45,000 volunteer hours.  Tupelo Main Street was selected in 2010 for a Placemaking Pilot program in partnership with Project for Public Spaces, the National Main Street Center and Mississippi Main Street.  The culmination of this project, slated for completion in May 2016, will result in an $11 million corridor improvement connecting downtown to Elvis’s birthplace.    

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Year Founded: 1984 | Population: 23,856 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 55

vicksburg_GAMSA 2016
The Valley Building, located on the corner, boats views of the Mississippi River from its top floors. Built in 1881 as the Valley Dry Goods Company headquarters, it is now a luxury corporate apartment building. © Ben Muldrow

As one of the original six Mississippi Main Street towns, Vicksburg Main Street has created over 3,100 jobs while generating over $150 million in public and private investment.  Though in operation for 28 years, Vicksburg still had a vacancy rate of 65% in 2012. Vicksburg realized that that no one was coming to “save them,” so they decided to find local investors to invest in the district. They developed an Economic Development Resource Guide, and eventually a list of “most wanted” buildings was created.  Today, nearly every building on the “most wanted’ list has been purchased, rehabbed or is in the processing of being rehabbed, and the vacancy rate sits at just 5%! 

We would once again like to thank everyone that applied this year. The winners will be announced at the Opening Plenary of the 2016 National Main Streets Conference in Milwaukee!

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