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Greenville#039;s growth quite visible

As most of you can tell by making a quick drive around Greenville, business prospects are picking up the pace and the positive consumer mood is showing. We recently reported that sales tax collection growth is strong, up 33 percent December 2004 over December 2003. This is a good indication that our valued local retailers are busy and they're capturing some of the revenue that has unfortunately been lost to the north of us.

While I understand that a good portion of the sales tax growth can be attributed to one (big box) retailer in town, I also understand that 24 of the top 25 sales tax generators for the city are all up over last year, a sign that the "big box" is not reaping all the rewards from increased consumer optimism and spending.

The banking business in Butler County continues to boom with Butler County Bank holding their open house recently. William Johnson, the bank's president, reports that the event was very well attended and that the newest member of the banking community (First Lowndes opened a branch in Greenville last year) has greatly surpassed its first-year deposit expectations.

Hainjes also held their official grand opening last week and joins Butler County Bank as the newest retailer on the bypass. Hainjes has a long-standing tradition in Greenville having been a downtown stalwart for many years. They purchased the bypass site where their new store sits more than 30 years ago and decided the timing was right to expand to that location.

Alacare is also opening on the bypass soon in a new office complex next to Harrison's Funeral Home. Alacare is a home healthcare and hospice facility that is has offices throughout Alabama. With the addition of the three aforementioned businesses and LBW's recent announcement to add a technical school next to its existing Greenville campus, the bypass is really blooming.

Downtown, the folks at Benefit Planners report that they expect to be in their newly renovated building in about a month. A burst hot water heater was the catalyst that got the ball rolling on the renovation, which will include a new facade and a totally renovated interior. They are conducting business as usual from the old Ford dealership downtown and are looking forward to the benefits of their soon-to-be "new" office.

I also hear a new restaurant is in the works for downtown Greenville. While I don't know all the details, it's reported to be a fine-dining establishment that will also do catering. Anyone who has tried to eat out lately will agree that we need more variety in our dining establishments, so it will be good to have another choice in town. While no firm timetable has been made on the announcement, hopefully we'll have some news to report in a month or so.

Hopefully we'll also be able to report on news of a new movie theater in a few months as well. The mayor continues to work hard on recruiting one to the old Wal-Mart building, which recently had a new roof installed courtesy of the former tenant, and reports there are several other retailers very interested in occupying the 55,000 square foot building.

While I'm hopeful a movie theater will find a home in the building, I hope they move to a decision fast as the city doesn't need to continue paying the lease on the building when we have other retailers wanting the space. While I agree that the increased tax collections are funding the lease payments in the short-term, the city coffers could be even better off than recent reports show without the added expense of a lease payment on an empty building. Over time I believe the lease payments will wind up being a good investment, but right now it's hard to quantify paying them.

Dennis Palmer is the publisher of of the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 125 or via email at dennis.palmer@greenvillecate.com.