In other consumer news, new businesses are opening up shop in downtown Valdosta at record rates this year. The growing competition actually helps all businesses downtown.
In just the first three months of 2004, ten new businesses have opened their doors in the azalea city. That's compared with only eight businesses that opened in downtown during 2003.
Downtown promoters say all the new businesses will actually benefit the older shops and restaurants.
"The new businesses that come in absolutely enhance the existing businesses that are in the downtown area because the more businesses that we get and the more specialty shops that we get, attracts a larger group of people," says James Horton, Director, Valdosta Main Street Program
Buffy Huling is one of those new business owners and she says the early response to her speciality dog shop has been great, and she sees a bright future with the other new shops helping attract new customers.
"As a business owner in downtown Valdosta, there is a lot of new business coming in, restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, some major retail outlets are coming in from what I understand. I'm glad I made the decision to come downtown," says Buffy.
And Buffy isn't the only one glad to be part of growing downtown. City leaders say if this pace of growth keeps up, they will have to start looking at expanding the parking options to accommodate all the growth.
More than 80 new jobs will also be added to Valdosta's downtown once the Department of Labor opens its new career center in the heart of the Azalea City later this year.
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