Opp DRA encouraged by HGTV stars’ appraisal

Published 1:51 am Friday, April 5, 2019

After hosting HGTV stars from the show “Home Town,” Amanda Henderson and Alayna Cook from the Opp Downtown Redevelopment Authority believe that they have the tools to revitalize Opp.

Henderson traveled to Laurel, Miss., where the show “Home Town” is based, and asked them to visit Opp and share their ideas with local resident.

“When I first saw the show, I was really intrigued by the fact that they talked about bringing their hometown back,” Henderson said. “I’ve always loved the show, but when we went to Laurel, I noticed a lot of similarities to our downtown area in Opp. It really encouraged me to see that they were in a position that we were in now and they were able to bring their downtown back and I just wanted to learn from them.”

Both of the women said that the event was a big hit.

“I think the event went really well,” Henderson said. “We had around 150 people show up, which is great.”

Henderson said that after talking with several people in attendance, she is excited to hear their different inputs.

“We talked to a lot of people yesterday about the event,” Henderson said. “I specifically asked each person what they got out of the event and everything that I got back was something different, but it was all positive. Depending on the businesses and where they are in Opp, they all had different ideas on how to apply what was said at the event.”

Before the Tuesday night event at Westview Baptist Church, Henderson and Cook, along with several members of the Opp City Council and the DRA, gave a tour to the stars of “Home Town.”

“They were actually very encouraging to us after seeing the town,” Henderson said. “As far as having a good school district and the assets that we have in having the college and the state park and our downtown district is very beautiful, it just needs to be shined up and marketed correctly. It made us feel better that they said that we were on the right track and they even said that when they started 12 years ago, we are actually a little ahead of the game as far as where they were at the starting point. Just to have people who have never been to Opp and don’t have any preconceived notions of Opp, give their perspective about what we should do to revitalize the town was refreshing. I mean, they threw out ideas left and right that we had never thought of because we are always driving through Opp everyday.”

The next move for the DRA will be to focus on the downtown district as usual, but to have the community involved as much as possible.

“One thing that Jim and Mallorie said that other night is that downtown equals community,” Henderson said. “We just feel like if we can continue to revitalize our downtown, not only for beautification purposes, but for support. Also, shifting our mindsets so that citizens will support our local businesses. That is really our first step, doing beautification and doing different redevelopment projects downtown, supporting our businesses that are already there and, of course, bringing in new businesses.”

Cook said that the entire experience made her feel more confident about redeveloping Opp.

“It helped me realize that we are on the right track,” Cook said. “It made me feel good about what we are doing.”

Though the event was very successful, Henderson said, one event is not going to change Opp.

“I think the people who were there and apply what they learned are going to be the ones that change Opp,” Henderson said. “I don’t want to put too much weight into that one event, because that is not going to be what changes Opp, but the people that get on fire after the event, that’s what is going to make the change happen.”

Cook said that attendance has increased at each meeting  they have held.

“I hope that we will keep increasing the participation in our meetings,” Cook said. “The first meeting we had around 100 and then this one was 150, so we are on the right track and we hope to continue to grow.”