Sweetwater seeing business boom

Work to remodel the former Western Auto/Picket Fence building on Main Street is one of the most visible signs of tremendous growth not only downtown but all of Sweetwater. The building will house a restaurant soon and will have additional space for other tenants.

Not long ago, there were numerous empty commercial buildings in Sweetwater. However, buildings large and small are filling up fast the last couple of years in Sweetwater.

The former Kmart only stayed empty a little more than a year before Rural King opened, by all accounts, a booming store there one year ago. The empty spaces that were downtown have also been filling up fast during the past year.

Last spring, several new businesses and a large restaurant opened in a three-story building on Main Street, thanks in part to a $50,000 Tennessee Main Street Entrepreneur grant. What was once the largest empty space on Main Street, the former Western Auto and later the Picket Fence building, will have a hibachi restaurant opening in it soon and likely other tenants at some point.

Cody and Stephanie Phillips purchased the former Seiler Hardware property and have development plans for it. That property was recently formerly accepted into the Main Street District, which should help with the re-development of that prominent space.

A large building in the industrial park recently sold, leaving very few open spots left, mainly a couple of rental areas along New Highway 68.

During Monday’s monthly workshop, Sweetwater Mayor Doyle Lowe praised the work of the nationally-accredited Main Street program in Sweetwater and its director, Kassie Kelley-Watson.

“It has been phenomenal,” Lowe said. “We are actually getting calls from people looking to find buildings in Sweetwater.”

Lowe said at least 26 new jobs have come to downtown recently as eight businesses have opened in the Main Street District. According to figures provided by the Main Street program, 10 public improvement projects have brought $62,000 in investment to downtown and six private projects have brought another $500,000 in economic investment to the Main Street District.

The mayor said the Main Street District’s sales tax revenue had grown 36 percent in 2018. Sweetwater as a whole just reported its highest-grossing sales tax revenue month ever this past Christmas season.

Lowe said 10 years ago, the city was borrowing $450,000 a year to be able to operate. But he praised the teamwork among commissioners and the efforts to promote growth. Lowe said city finances have improved so much, the city will reach its goal of having a $1.6 million reserve fund this year; a full year ahead of schedule.

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