Business owners said they hope shopping, tourism and revenues increase with the new neighborhoods, and that staples like farmers market expand. They also yearn for a more vibrant and diverse downtown, and the recent renaissance in downtown Midway in Woodford County was cited as an example.
"Places that appear to be vibrant attract other entrepreneurs to do business there," Garkovitch said. "It's going to be a magnet to attract other small business growth."
But Community Development Director Margaret Morgan said she feared commercial development along U.S. 68. Many of Wilmore's small businesses could not compete with the low prices and high volume of shopping centers and national chains.
"For a privately owned business, chain stores are a huge fear," said business association Chairwoman Erin Gibson, who owns Solomon's Porch restaurant with her husband, Tim.
There was also the concern that downtown Wilmore will lose its unique character, and that traffic, taxes and crime will increase. Attendees also emphatically opposed alcohol sales in Wilmore, although that has helped restaurants in cities like Midway.
Despite the anxieties, residential growth will offer opportunities for local business growth and more jobs. Extended store hours, better parking and collaboration between business owners could further augment the improvements.
"If we are going to tell people they need to buy local, then we need to do that too," said Garkovitch.
Instead of competing with shopping centers in Nicholasville and Lexington, she said, Wilmore business owners should identify their niche. Christian businesses throughout the country have been successful, she added, so that could be an option.
Then, Lexington residents might use that wider highway to buy specialty items in Wilmore.
The Wilmore Business Association will use the ideas generated to develop a strategic plan. The association will meet next on Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m.