MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - New businesses and new jobs are filling downtown Middlesboro. City leaders say new businesses created 100 new jobs last year alone.
Discover Downtown Middlesboro officials say improvements to town are helping grow jobs.
The Avenue Café in downtown Middlesboro is one of those businesses.
"I think it's good business for town. I think a lot of the downtown people like it. They come in, get their orders, and don't have to travel out on the main road," said Lisa Arnett, employee.
Discover Downtown Middlesboro leaders say it is just one business to open in the past few years. Leaders say last year alone, 13 new businesses opened and created 100 new jobs.
"I'm grateful to have a job because there's a lot of people who don't have a job and can't get a job here," said Arnett.
Leaders say nearly $2.7 million in improvements to downtown are helping to spur business. The latest project is the Transportation Cabinet adding the cobblestone and concrete to the streets.
"It's the little touches like that that make it more friendly and more welcoming for folks to visit," said Isaac Kremer, Discover Downtown Middlesboro Executive Director.
The Middlesboro mayor says they can see a difference because occupational taxes collected have increased in the city.
While the new jobs are not replacing the many lost coal jobs, the mayor says it is a start.
"One thing we have been saying since the '70s, we've got to be looking at other businesses and other involvement to keep our communities moving and hope coal turns around and comes back," said Mayor Bill Kelley.
Leaders say they are planning more improvements to town and are recruiting more businesses here.
"We want to create good opportunities for folks here so people who love this area can stay here," said Kremer.
They have $50 million in improvements planned the next few years. Leaders say a mix of private and public funds are paying for the projects.
Some of the proposed projects include the University of Kentucky and Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program plan to connect the downtown area with the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. A two mile "Inner Loop" has been proposed connecting Cumberland Avenue, the Canal Walk, and Yellow Creek with the National Park around 13th Street. Leaders say plans are also underway to revitalize the old Elk's Lodge building.