Lake City rolled out the red carpet last week for more than two dozen mayors who spent the day learning about the city’s economic development strategies and successes.
Mayors from cities as diverse as Newberry to Marion and Santee to Sumter got an insider’s look at how Lake City approaching its strategy of moving the city from a rural agricultural economic base to a thriving arts hub for the region and the state.
|Mayors meeting at the Bean Market|
The mayors started the day with a briefing at the historic Bean Market that was once the site of the world’s largest truck auction of green beans. Today, it’s restored to serve as the home of the local farmer’s market along with dozens of events annually. Mayor Lovith Anderson told the group of mayors that rentals are close to capacity for the year at the Bean Market venue.
Ray McBride, executive director of the Community Museum Society, along with Mayor Anderson and Shawn Bell, city administrator, led the mayors on the walking tour.
|Visiting the Ron McNair Center|
Arts and culture are a real focus of the city’s economic development strategy, Mayor Anderson told his colleagues. From the Ron McNair Life History Center to the Jones-Carter Art Gallery, the city is focused on making arts and culture its hallmark of economic growth.
|Artfields art in the Inn at |
the Crossroad courtyard
Throughout the walking tour of downtown, the mayors got to see a number of the pieces of art that will be in residence during the upcoming Artfields Festival April 24 – May 7. The festival attracts thousands of visitors from around the state, nation and world over its nine-day run. This year, the festival will offer $100,000 in prizes to artists from across the Southeast.
|Inn at the Crossroads lobby|
A highlight of the mayors’ walking tour of Lake City’s downtown was a visit to the recently opened boutique hotel, Inn at the Crossroads. Santee Mayor Donnie Hilliard told his colleagues about a recent retreat of his city council that was held at the Inn. During their two-day stay in Lake City, the Santee council learned about Lake City’s successful parks and recreation department and its efforts to bring more tourism to the city. What a great way for the mayors to learn from each other!
A panel of local leaders briefed the mayors at lunch about the strong arts and business community support that is making this new economic development strategy work. Jim Fields, executive director of the Lake City Partnership Council, noted that while the city does have a strong financial benefactor in local resident Darla Moore, the Council’s goal is to create economic development strategies that can replicated in small towns all over the state.
The day wrapped up with a tour of Moore Farm’s Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of town. This horticultural gem spans 50 acres combining cutting edge horticultural practices and rural gardening traditions. The Garden hosts local events and tours by appointment.