Jackson Businesses See Silver Lining to Construction

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Downtown Jackson businesses aren't closing for business just because the roads are closing for construction.

"We've been through it before but we will work hard to provide for our customers," said James Shotwell Jr., owner of the Miller Shoe Parlor, which has been a part of the business community for a century. "I dread it at first, but then I realize it's a natural necessity."

The city sees it as a necessity too, to fix water and sewer mains 15 feet below Michigan Ave. The three-phase project breaks ground on Monday and runs through fall 2015.

Shotwell realizes the city needs to repair its infrastructure and appreciates the way city officials are trying to accommodate businesses.

"A construction project of this nature is very big and very comprehensive," said assistant city manager Jonathan Greene. "But what we've committed to our businesses is that we're going to communicate every aspect of the process to them as quickly as possible and as completely as possible."

Businesses say they're able to communicate the construction like never before. At Miller's, social media is joining radio ads and other media to alert customers that the store is very much open for business. The city set up its own website dedicated to the construction project, which features a map pointing to free parking.

"Even though this project is going on, it's still very important to bring people to downtown Jackson," said Greene. "We want to make this a spectacle. Downtown Jackson and the businesses we have is reason in and of itself to come down here."

Randy LeMaster, who owns Chase Sports Bar, says he is concerned about an expected slowdown in business. But he is more optimistic about what the future will bring.

"We're going to gain a lot of parking spots and stuff downtown, which we need," said LeMaster. "I think the reward of this project is going to be worth the inconvenience of the project."

Businesses are also planning on working together to get through the closures. Some are engaging in mutual advertising to promote construction specials. That's exactly what the city wants to see.

"We can look at this construction as a big scary animal," said Greene, "or we can look at it as a chance to attract businesses and attract customers to our business."

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