High Hopes for Cairo


By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall

ALEXANDER COUNTY -- Changes are on the way in Cairo thanks to a state grant. Leaders are working on plans to rejuvenate the community. They've brought in a consulting firm from New Orleans that helped rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

They're in the early planning phases, meeting with the community to find out what Cairo needs. The brainstorming comes before any decisions about developments. Their goal is to revitalize the once vibrant river town.

“Were trying to make a new history, to move us forward,” Mayor Tyrone Coleman enthused.

Leaders are betting on a fresh start to Cairo. The historic downtown is largely abandoned today and the city population is dwindling, but a $750,000 grant from the state could change that.

“The money’s there in a sense. The people are there and the plans just have to come forth out of that,” he added.

Coleman ran for office in order to improve the city and says their biggest obstacle is overcoming pessimism.

“Seemingly a spirit of hopelessness has fallen upon this region,” shared Coleman.

Resident Gabrielle Harris agrees.

“This is our opportunity to change things,” he said.

He's counting on community involvement to spur plans, and thinks this effort is different than those of the past.

“It's been a while since we had any type of planning with implementation, goal setting, trying to figure out how to sustain it,” Harris explained.

Finding what people want and need is at the core of this process.

“Housing economic, development, transportation, natural resources infrastructure,” Dwight Norton listed.

He’s with the consulting firm from New Orleans.

“We start by gathering as much info as we can and then sharing that info to help inform the development of goals,” said Norton.

Time will tell where Cairo goes from here, but the town's residents and leaders aren't giving up

“I've always felt this community has never reached its potential and I want to be part of that movement,” Coleman added.

The mayor says part of the grant money will go to the consulting firm and the rest to development. A community group now meets every few weeks to brainstorm. They aren't working under any deadlines.

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