WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Waveland city leaders took steps this week to show they are serious about economic development and luring new business to town. The Board of Aldermen approved a contract with Urban Development Toolbox LLC to develop a strategy to attract all types of business.
City leaders say one of their goals is to get several vacant buildings around town occupied.
Eight and a half years after Hurricane Katrina wiped the street clean, Waveland's most well known downtown street, Coleman Avenue, is still struggling to bounce back. Before the storm, more than 30 businesses lined the avenue. Now only about seven call Coleman home.
"Coleman Avenue is flat right now. We have not seen the growth that we hoped and anticipated. And we hope that by having somebody lead us in the right direction, we can re-populate the street," said Ward 1 Alderman Lili Stahler.
That somebody Stahler referenced is Laurence Leyens, owner of Urban Development Toolbox LLC. It's the consulting firm the city has contracted to help lure new business to town.
"He was a former mayor of Vicksburg, Mississippi and has connections throughout Mississippi. He's worked with a lot of other small cities. Indianola and Greenville are getting Hampton Inns as a result of his work with them. He's working with [Mayor] Chipper in Pass Christian," explained Stahler.
City leaders say part of what the firm will do is create a comprehensive plan to sell Waveland to the business world. That plan will address everything from the city's zoning ordinances to marketing initiatives and economic development incentives. The mayor says reoccupying the vacant buildings around town, including the old K-Mart and 84-Lumber buildings, will be a priority.
"We do have some prime sites, prime locations. The hope is that hopefully he can come together with us, assess these locations, get the data put together, and be able to shop these facilities for us and get some tenants in these facilities," said Garcia.
The mayor said the consultant will identify businesses that will be a perfect fit for Waveland and then help to recruit them.
"From the gap studies, from things are missing in this area that they have to go out of the area for are retail, clothing, shoes. We have probably fewer evening restaurant/bar combinations type chains. Of course, a hotel is paramount for us," Stahler said.
Waveland is a sales tax driven community. It doesn't take in any casino revenue. City leaders say retail sales taxes are a big part of what keeps the city running.
City leaders approved the contract with one stipulation. The fee for the service is not to exceed $15,000.