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DSDA glows Blue, 'Brick'
Annual awards highlight work in 2016
Downtown Statesboro Development Authority Executive Director Allen Muldrew, right, gives an update about the organization's activities during last Thursday's annual luncheon at The Hall behind 40 East Thursday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

               The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority's annual luncheon took on a strong Blue Mile tint this year, but with a stack of awards in the usual brick red.
        Speaking during the luncheon at The Hall on Vine Street, DSDA Executive Director Allen Muldrew noted an influx of businesses that - although he didn't put it this way - obviously hope to stay in the black and spread some green around.
        "We've got 25 new businesses, and a lot of folks have been coming downtown bringing a lot of jobs," Muldrew said.
        The list he projected included 22 businesses that opened during the past year, plus a few that reopened or were relaunched after nearly closing. Downtown businesses produced a net gain of 14 jobs, with 45 jobs added and 31 lost, according to the DSDA's report. Four downtown businesses closed.
        New and expanding businesses, building rehabilitation projects, public improvements and the addition of 20 housing units brought investments totaling more than $4.6 million in downtown Statesboro in 2016, Muldrew reported.
        The DSDA estimated that more than 85,500 people attended 153 downtown promotional events held during the year.
        "I'd like to quote someone that I admire and appreciate a lot who says, ‘If the Blue Mile is going to be successful, you have to eat and shop downtown,' otherwise it doesn't work," Muldrew continued.
         The source he thanked for that quote was Keely Fennell, who along with Darron Burnette co-chairs the Blue Mile Committee, originally the South Main Revitalization Committee.

Blue-tinged honors
        With this Wednesday the deadline for the final progress report in the America's Best Communities competition, several of the DSDA's annual Brick Awards went to people and businesses associated with the Blue Mile. The plan for the revitalization of South Main Street and surrounding neighborhoods between Georgia Southern University's main entrance and the Bulloch County Courthouse has made Statesboro one of eight finalists vying for a $3 million first prize, $2 million second prize or $1 million third prize to fund their projects.
        An announcement event is scheduled for April 19 in Denver in the contest funded by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, CoBank and the Weather Channel for communities with 50,000 or fewer residents.
         Downtown Statesboro Development Authority board members Suzanne Hallman and Frank D'Arcangelo presented the Brick Awards, actual bricks with little engraved plaques attached.

New business
        This year's Best New Downtown Business award went to Little Italy Pizza, a business "built from the ground up," as D'Arcangelo noted.
        "It started in other cities and has made its way to the Boro Blue Mile and satisfied (all) customers that have entered its doors since the grand opening in late January," he said.

        The 2017 Leadership Award went to Bob Mikell, current Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County president and a past DSDA chair. Mikell, an attorney with the Brown Rountree firm, led the 2014 campaign on the enabling referendum for the South Main Street Tax Allocation District and has been working with Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson to prepare the final ABC report.
        "With his determination and willingness to strive for success, this community has been his number-one priority throughout the Boro Blue Mile process. ...," Hallman said. "He serves our community in many ways ... striving to increase the quality of life for all those calling our beloved community home."

        Staying on theme, the DSDA presented its 2017 Teamwork Award to Frontier Communications Local Manager Jaclyn Cason. D'Arcangelo called Cason "a downtown professional who has had a vision and opportunity for growth and expansion in our downtown."
        Cason first brought the America's Best Communities competition to the attention of other downtown business people.
        "It's been great to see everybody come together and work together as a team," she said Thursday.

        The authority directed its Downtown Visionary Award to Dominique Halaby, director of Georgia Southern University's Business Innovation Group. Based at GS City Campus downtown, BIG has been providing programs for local businesses and entrepreneurs there for several years and now operates the Innovation Incubator and FabLab, which opened last summer.
        "His support and drive has taken Downtown Statesboro to a whole new level," Hallman said. "The physical presence of a university downtown has created sustainable growth and development, and having an engine that creates jobs is vital."
        The innovation center was a joint project of Georgia Southern and the city of Statesboro, also involving the DSDA and the Averitt Center for the Arts, which gained an arts incubator with a ceramics studio and rentable studios for artists. Funding included a $1.1 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant and a $250,000 OneGeorgia Authority grant.

        The Downtown Entrepreneur Award went to Brandon Mahoney.
        He "has given a facelift to not just one business but has also revived one of our well-loved downtown businesses, like a phoenix from the ashes," Hallman said.
        Last year Mahoney purchased Vandy's Bar-B-Q and reopened Holiday Pizza in partnership with members of the Kalloniatis family, who had operated the restaurant for 14 years before closing it in 2013.
        "I'm just doing what I can to keep Statesboro local," Mahoney said.

Special presentation
        The DSDA also made a special presentation to Debra Chester and in memory of her late husband, Steve Chester, PhD, for their years of service to Statesboro and the downtown area.
        Dr. Steve Chester worked as an educational psychologist with two area organizations and in 1983 opened a private psychology practice in Statesboro. A guitarist and singer, he also produced three CDs of original music. He assisted his wife in her work as volunteer leader of the Mainstreet Farmers Market, an arm of the DSDA.
        Among other contributions to the community, the Chesters have sponsored exhibitions and performances at the Averitt Center, D'Arcangelo noted.
        "Steve and Debra, as a team, helped shape what our downtown is today, and helped set the course of what it will be in the future," D'Arcangelo said.
        He announced a donation in memory of Dr. Chester to the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden.
        Outgoing DSDA Chair Todd Manack passed the gavel to incoming Chair Mary Foreman, broker at Wise Choice Realty.

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