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Clinton Business Owners Primed to Paint the Town...

"The thing about EDI's is that we filter them out," Patti Wilkerson, one of the boots-on-the-ground leaders of the "Let's Paint Stuttgart" business district beautification project, explained key lessons learned by those who collaborated in the Stuttgart project to representatives of the newly formed Clinton Business and Revitalization Association (CBRA) during a fact-finding expedition, Friday, October 18, 2013.

Above, left to right: Wendy Russ, owner of United Country Spot Real Estate and a City of Clinton Councilwoman, Patti Wilkerson of Wilkerson Jewelers in Stuttgart, Kitty Murdock, coordinator of the newly formed Clinton Business and Revitalization Association (CBRA), and Sean Sikes of The Dirty Farmers Community Market in Clinton.

"EDI stands for 'economic death indicator'," Wilkerson elaborated. "Vacant shops, dingy storefronts, decrepit signage. They were all around us, but we had become blind to them."

At right: An example of a EDI.

Then one day an industry prospector, on a mission to find a new location for the expansion of the company he represented, came to town. Local leadership met the man's private corporate plane at the local airport, prepared to give him the red carpet treatment starting with a guided tour of Stuttgart. However, before the group had traveled the seven short miles from the airport to the downtown business district, the prospector announced that he had seen enough. His company was not interested to expand to Stuttgart, he said, and he was ready to go back to the airport.

Shocked, confused and dismayed, local leadership asked what had prompted this quick decision. "Too many EDIs," the prospector responded. "I counted eight in just five miles. There is no point to us going any further."

Wilkerson, who chairs the Stuttgart Unlimited committee of the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce, told how local business leaders led by Allen Homra, financial adviser at the Stuttgart office of Edward D. Jones & Company, concerned with the economic and industrial growth of their community, banded together early in 2011 to create the "Let's Paint Stuttgart" project. Determined to enhance the curb-appeal of their downtown business district, they set a goal to paint 25 storefronts that summer.

Above, before and after: The first building to get a makeover by the Stuttgart group is a popular family-owned restaurant.

At right: Another dramatic Stuttgart storefront facelift.

Providing volunteer labor and logistics to paint a building with the property owner buying the paint, a cleaning crew would prep and powerwash several days before painting began.

By the time October of 2011 rolled around, more than 300 volunteers had logged 3,200-plus hours helping clean and paint 28 building exteriors. The transformation wowed residents and generated a ripple effect of enthusiasm and community pride.

Above: Main Street Stuttgart sports a fresh new look thanks to the Let's Paint Stuttgart project.

"Our visit to Stuttgart was inspiring," said CBRA's coordinator, Kitty Murdock. "It convinced us that our plans to spruce-up our own downtown business district are doable and well worth the effort. It just takes cooperation and work."

For more information, visit CBRA on Facebook or phone 501-313-1584.


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That you may be filled with strength and power, rooted and grounded in love that surpasses all knowledge: Be kind to one another; live with compassion, producing every kind of goodness; stand firm and hold your ground in truth, righteousness and peace; be courageous; embrace faith which is perfect trust in justice. ~Ephesians 3-6 (condensed)