Dexter Doing It Right, Especially Downtown

Oct 24, 2014

DEXTER – Jane Jacobs, in The Death and Life of American Cities, describes the need for a vital downtown because its life-force breathes into every other part of the city. Dexter’s downtown is a perfect example of that life-force and Dexter is a great example of a great city.

Downtown Dexter is bustling with retail business, from consignment clothing stores to upscale, eclectic variety shops. You need only go into a single shop to find out about all the downtown retailers and what you can get where. That’s one astounding attribute you find in downtown Dexter; they support each other very proudly.

Talk with City Administrator Mark Stidham and you will quickly understand the winning strategy behind Dexter’s success. Dexter’s downtown is a perfect example of public and private investment in a community working in concert with the active Dexter Downtown Association, keeping the community and other organizations involved in downtown with events and activities.

He said the city couldn’t have justified all the work downtown if the shop owners hadn’t also invested in having their businesses downtown. The city completely redesigned and rebuilt the drainage system, re-sidewalked and surfaced the thoroughfares and even added vignette seating areas which reach out to the street from the sidewalk.BannerImage

Stidham was also quick to point out that the two main commercial areas are supportive of one another and the city works to ensure both are continually enhanced. He said that several years back “the complaint was that no one could see Dexter from the highway” as passersby just kept passing by.

The city invested in lighting at each of their Highway 60 intersections and along the main drag of the strip and the investment paid off. Dexter’s sales tax revenues have steadily increased over the past five years to the tune of $500,000 more since 2009.

In the first 10 months of 2014, Dexter’s 2 percent city sales tax revenue is up by $106,000 over the same period of 2013. At their rate, annual tax revenues could exceed $2M annually before the end of the decade.

The Chamber of Commerce is also an active and vital part of the community. In June of 2001 the Chamber coordinated the purchase and renovation of approximately half of the old Paramount Headwear building on Market Street to accommodate two new industries.

Chamber Executive Director Janet Coleman explained that the next year saw the renovation of the remainder of the building to accommodate spaces for five start-up businesses, two start-up offices, a conference/training room, and new chamber offices, along with a large reception area using both grant funds and local financing.

Often referred to as incubator space, the purpose of using a portion of the available space for start-ups was to give them the opportunity to have low overhead for at least three years. At that time, assistance would be offered to enable them to move to a permanent location.  Over the years since opening their incubator space, the tenants have included a martial arts instructor, a woman-owned business providing training for youth in tumbling and cheer, an embroidery business, a cleaning equipment distributor, a model car and airplane merchandiser and a solar energy company expanding their business from Alabama.

In 2010, Three Rivers College – Dexter Center began renting close to 20,000 square feet and additional space has been assigned for future expansion of the campus. The addition of the campus has opened the doors to the development of educational opportunities to train the local workforce, thus creating an atmosphere conducive to economic development.

SEMO TIMES tried to sit down with Bill Hampton the Director at TRC’s Dexter campus, but he instantly said, “Let’s take a tour!”

Hampton showed off the college’s outstanding facility which turns four years old in January. TRC at Dexter has over 400 students taking classes with local instructors and using the latest video instruction. Some students use it as a springboard to other colleges and universities and other students come for the institution’s two main emphases: Green Diesel Technology and Medical Billing and Coding.

Hampton said that it’s exciting to see diesel company recruiters come in and select TRC students, who spend less than $4500 on their degree, over their closest rival in Nashville where the students pay almost ten times that.

Many things lend to the success of Dexter’s campus which has increased over 400 percent in their four-year history, but few will deny that having Hampton as director is a key to their success.

Mention downtown to any of the above community leaders and their countenance lights up even more. It is clear that the pride of Dexter is accentuated by the downtown district.