"Cautionary optimism", five new businesses added to downtown Harlan

Published: May. 8, 2018 at 9:31 PM EDT
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In the last six months, Harlan County officials say five new businesses have come to downtown Harlan.

In a time where not long ago, many of the buildings were vacant, people in the area say they are feeling optimistic.

One business had it's official ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon. The owner of Downtown Bargains and Vendors says her new business is creating 19 jobs in the downtown area.

"I want both of my boys to be able to stay right here in Harlan and grow up like I did because it is a joy here and because it is good money", said Bridgett Napier, owner of Downtown Bargains and Vendors.

In total, officials say five new businesses have come to downtown Harlan in just the last six months.

"There are many still vacant buildings in downtown Harlan", said Geoff Marietta, President of the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce. "But now that we have some businesses opening, it might spark that next entrepreneur to walk by that building and think, 'hey, you know, maybe I could open up a coffee shop there. Maybe I could open up the business that I'm doing at home right now."

In addition, Workforce training classes will begin at the old Belk building this summer. People say they are starting to feel optimistic.

"Cautionary optimism, I think people are feeling excited, yet they still feel tempered", said Marietta. "They don't want to get too excited just given some of the failures they've seen in the past with businesses opening, lots of excitement, and then closing again."

One thing is certain. The people of Harlan County say they are resilient.

"Don't stay down. Don't let things get you down", said Napier. "But always we fight. We come back."

Officials from the Community Foundation of Southeast Community and Technical College say students will receive training pay for their work at the old Belk building. They say the schedule for those classes should be released by the end of May.