Construction and computers set to bring new life to Ripley

By Justin Hanson - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

RIPLEY, TN (WMC-TV) - One area of West Tennessee is getting creative in its ways to fight the financial fall out from this tough economic time. In fact, some parts of downtown Ripley are hardly recognizable.

But in the next few months, local leaders hope a downtown facelift. in addition to new wireless Internet service, will once again put Ripley on the map.

"We're actually taking the software they use in industry," Lauderdale County Mayor Rod Schuh said. "We're taking it to high schools at this point and time."

Lauderdale County has the second highest unemployment rate in the state of Tennessee.  Many hope those numbers turn around once these projects are complete.

"It's unbelievable. We look out every day and see all the changes and we're just amazed, and it's a long time coming," said resident Sandra Burnham.

Burnham has worked inside the courthouse for 36 years - a court house without central air, at least until this downtown renovation project.

"We've always had room air conditioners and in the winter time, you'd stuff it with paper towels to keep air from coming in," she said.

A video rendering shows what the new square will look like in just a few short months.  On top of new storefronts, sidewalks, and lighting, the square will also have a farmers market to display its famous tomatoes.

On top of the downtown renovations, grant money is being used to build towers to provide wireless Internet all across the county.

It's all part of an effort to help market this job-strapped area.

"How do you set up your Facebook page?  Which one is best - Is it Twitter?  Is it Facebook, MySpace?  All of it can be used to help your business," said Lisa Hankins of the Lauderdale County Chamber of Commerce.

Crews say downtown construction should be completed by the end of this year.

You can take an online tour of the new Ripley square by clicking here, or click here to find out about Lauderdale County's efforts to bring business back into the area.

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