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McCoy reflects on Lanett’s 2020, talks what’s coming in 2021

LANETT — The calendar year 2020 ends at midnight on Thursday. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t been the best of years. Many are hoping for a better year in 2021. Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy is among them but does not dismiss 2020 as a totally forgettable year.

“We started off the year with high expectations, but they were dampened by COVID and the shutdown,” he said. “Retail recruitment got put on hold both here in Lanett and all over. All in all, it could have been much worse. One positive thing we did see was an increase in sales tax. People stayed close to home because of COVID-19 and spent their money close to home. Instead of going out of town to shop and go to restaurants they stayed at home and spent their money here. One thing that really stands out about 2020 is that it shows that shopping at home really works.”

McCoy said that more shopping at home was a factor in Lanett maintaining an A rating with Standard & Poor’s. “Without COVID, it might have been better,” he said. “but we were well pleased to maintain an A rating.”

Lanett also benefited from two federal matching grants, one from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and another in the form of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The CDBG allowed for the continuation of the streetscape along North Lanier Avenue. That project could be completed in the next 30 days. The ARC grant enabled the start of the streetscape look on First Street. This work will also be finished in the near future and sets the stage for a much larger project in 2021. Funded by a $630,000 grant, the work in the coming year will extend the streetscape look of wide sidewalks, planting areas for flowers, shrubs and small trees, decorative lighting and benches from Highway 29 to Eighth Avenue near Veterans Park and W.O. Lance Elementary School.

The work to be done next year will complete the downtown “T,” with North Lanier being the leg and First Street the top bar. The mayor said the city will continue seeking grants to continue the look south of First Street, along South 4th Avenue toward the Lanett Scout Hut.

“I think things look so much better than they did a couple of years ago,” McCoy said. “We’d like for the sidewalk replacement and revitalization to continue along South 4th Avenue past the old Lanett gym.”

These projects, said the mayor, will increase property values and serve as an incentive for homeowners to reinvigorate their homes.

“There’s just so much the city can do with individual properties,” McCoy said. “The improvement of the sidewalks and the welcoming appearance that comes with it can be an incentive for the nearby residents to do their part in making a more attractive area.”

The mayor is enthused about the city’s ongoing airport project and believes it will have major benefits not just for Lanett but also for Valley, Chambers County, West Point and Troup County.

“Our airport is going to be a very busy place in the coming years,” he said. “I want to thank (Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood engineer) Ryan Pearce, (Planning and Development Director) Tony Chandler and (Chambers County Development Authority Director) Valerie Gray on having been instrumental in getting us to where we are. Lots of people are now calling us telling us they want to build hangars. We want to be careful in how we do it. We want to be a model airport. To accomplish that, we have to develop it the right way. We don’t want to just throw up construction in a race to have 100 hangars.”

McCoy said that he wanted the airport to be an integral part of an industrial complex with companies like Norbord, Knauf and WestRock on one side and new plants in Valley Industrial Park on the opposite side of I-85.

He sees Exit 77 as a future growth zone but does not see it as a retail zone like Highway 29 at Exit 79.

“I think it’s going to be more of an industrial zone with some retail growth, too,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, I want everyone to see the airport with its new terminal and 5,400-foot runway as an economic engine for the city, county and region.”

The mayor said the local area will likely have new leadership 20 years down the road or so.

“I would like to be remembered as someone who thought ahead and had things figured out,” he said. “I would like for our future leaders to see what we accomplished and to believe that it was well planned and carried out.”

He said that his dad, the late Pete McCoy, and former Lanett High football coach Dan Washburn, were both fond of saying that people who think small will accomplish small results and that “you have to think big to get big results.”

“I’m tired of hearing the naysayers telling us that we can’t do this, and we can do that,” McCoy said. “I want us to expect big things, to do things differently than we have done them in the past. We are seeing some monumental results in the transformation of this city.”

McCoy credits two people who died this year, Bobby Williams and Shirley Motley, on having had major roles in that. “They were intimately involved in the progress we have made in this city and the local area,” he said. “They had a great feel for the community and what could be accomplished here. They were always good to bounce ideas off of.”

McCoy said that industrial and retail growth are important goals, but to grow as a community it’s vital to have schools parents want their children to attend.

“We need to have the kind of schools that attract families,” he said.

He cited the City of Auburn, Hogansville and Callaway High, Beulah and Beauregard as places where people move to so their children can attend schools in those communities.

“They want to live in places where there are the kinds of schools they want their children attending,” he said. “They will drive 30 miles to work to have that. Our goal should be to have a community where people will both live and go to work.”

McCoy said that 2020 has been a good year for housing sales.

“I had four closings today, will have four tomorrow, four on Wednesday and five on Thursday,” he said.

“The interest rates are really good and that is spurring housing sales. It’s getting to where making a monthly housing payment is like making a monthly car payment. The market is really good for first-time home buyers.”

He cited Riverside Estates as a place where new homes were moving fast. Seven have been sold and more are being built. The city is the utility provider in the area.

He offers some advice to those who are looking to sell existing homes.

“You need to modernize your bathroom and your kitchen,” he said. “The next thing are the floors. That’s what people are looking to when they buy a new home. It’s now a seller’s market for those who are willing to invest.”