Officials hope Ripley renovations will help sagging economy

RIPLEY, TN (WMC-TV) - The economic crisis is taking a toll on Lauderdale County. Currently, the county has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, but a project that kicked off Thursday could change all that.

Officials there hope it will bring new jobs and a stronger economy to the area.
Ripley has long been known as the tomato capital of the world. But with the sagging economy, many visitors are not coming to town to buy tomatoes or anything else.

Don Connell has owned his Ripley business for 24 years.  He hopes a new downtown revitalization project will bring more jobs and more money back to court square.

"If we rebuild our downtown and get the economy moving, it benefits the whole county," Connell said.

In a year and a half, Ripley's courthouse and the businesses around it will look brand new.  A virtual video shows what downtown will look like once the work is complete.

"New storefronts, new windows, new streets, new sidewalks," resident Perry Williams said.

On top of other renovations, downtown officials said they are going to put in an amphitheater in a vacant lot for concerts and entertainment.

For some business owners, the renovation could not have come at a better time.

"We think it will be a natural stopping point for people going to Memphis and coming from Memphis," business owner Judy Tyree said.

And as the work gets underway, residents hope the tomato town will soon be filled with tourists once again.

To fund the project, over the next several years, the state's portion of the sales tax money generated by businesses in the downtown area will be used.

Click here to e-mail Justin Hanson.