Pulaski on Main director seeks ways to change attitudes about town

Patrick Ford, Program Director for Pulaski on Main loves Pulaski. He just can’t understand why the natives don’t.

Speaking before the county Board of Supervisors on Monday evening, Ford updated the board on several events POM has held of late, including a recent Inspiring Pulaski County Women Breakfast, a window decorating contest and job fair.

When not hosting special events, Ford and POM have been busy promoting downtown businesses and hosting ribbon cuttings.

Ford recalled his days as a teen and how he and his friends would “mock” some of their surrounding communities.

But he told the supervisors, they never had anything bad to say about Pulaski.

“It seemed like a nice town positioned close to things we thought were cool like Blacksburg and Virginia Tech,” he said.

Only when he arrived here did he hear for the first time, negative comments about the town.

“It was from the people here,” he said.

Ford said transplants to Pulaski recognize how nice the town is and he wonders why natives don’t feel the same.

“I thought, is it a lack of businesses? I don’t think so. We have some pretty good businesses here.

“The administration is good. You guys have been very clear and good with your intentions. It shows how much you care for the area. Same goes for town council and mayor.”

Ford wondered how to change the perception of the area among the natives.

“I’d love to work with you all on that,” he said.

“Every weekend there is something fun to come out to in the county of Pulaski. I need your help in figuring out how we get that across to the people here. I want Pulaski on Main to be a tool to help radiate the kindness and the hard work of the people here.

“If you can help me find that silver bullet, I’d be much appreciative,” Ford told the supervisors.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said things are changing, however, noting he’ll soon have the data to prove it.

“There is a shift taking place. There is a sea change taking place. Not only in the county but in the town,” he said.

“There was a time not that long ago where investments were made in the town because they were cheap. Now there are investments being made in the town because its valuable. That is a shift that is one of the most telling where the town is headed. It’s an exciting time,” Sweet said.

“It’s going to take Pulaski on Main, our tourism department, our small business development services, the Economic Development Authority, private investors and continued leadership by the Board of Supervisors to make all this work.

“I don’t know if that’s the silver bullet Patrick asked for, but it might be silver buckshot that we can employ to get us over that finish line – that goal line.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie mentioned a new Pulaski restaurant, Tuscano and Main Street Grill as examples of businesses moving into formerly empty buildings.

“We’re looking for more businesses to move into either empty or under-used buildings now. Each one of those incrementally improves things and builds on each other and counters the negative argument that people might have. I think positivity will come from that,” Guthrie said.

Ford noted he’s loved living here ever since he first came.

“It’s really getting better every day. There’s always something new here,” he added.

“Well, you’re seeing it the right way, with positivity and optimism. You’re seeing it from an outsider’s point of view without bias. We appreciate the work you’re doing and keep it up,” Guthrie said.

Sweet noted more new business could be on the way.

“We’re working with a national retail recruitment firm that has partnered with the Town of Pulaski. They are going to open up their Rolodex to us and will strategically position us to enter the competitive marketplace to attract retail operations to fill our main street and a lot of this retail space we have available,” Sweet said.

“We’re blessed to have this retail space because with the right timing, the right national positioning we’re going to have some cool recruited retail and commercial operations come to Pulaski.

Sweet said that is just another piece of the “puzzle” that will move the county toward its “30 by 40” goal of increasing population while stabilizing the local economy.