Erin and Ben Napier Named One of 2021's Greatest World Leaders by Fortune Magazine

·2 min read
Photo credit: HGTV
Photo credit: HGTV

This week, Fortune magazine released its World's 50 Greatest Leaders list for 2021 and two of our favorite HGTV stars were honored: Ben and Erin Napier. The Home Town hosts placed 39th on the list, which also honored New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (1st), American politician Stacy Abrams (8th), actress Dolly Parton (11th), athlete Tom Brady (22nd), and more.

Fortune selected the Napiers for their work in reviving small town America, as seen on their hit show Home Town. The outlet shed a light on the couple's achievements over the past decade. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, it noted that from 2000 to 2010, Laurel, Mississippi's population experienced little growth, except for its rising unemployment numbers. During this time, 70% of the city’s homes were valued at under $100,000, the data further read.

A booming lumber town in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Laurel was in serious decline. Fortunately, fresh college graduates Ben and Erin Napier were ready to revive it. The couple, alongside their friends Mallorie and Jim Rasberry and Emily and Josh Nowell, moved there after college. "We were the only people who lived downtown," Erin recalled to Southern Living last year, adding that "it was just us and the feral cats." She continued: "For the six of us, all in our twenties, it was like a game: How can we make downtown Laurel feel alive again?"

Slowly but surely, they began to fix up homes and eventually connected with HGTV (see their first tape to HGTV above!). They put the spotlight back on Laurel when it needed it most — and helped give its housing market a boost. A Zillow report shows that in May 2011, the average home value in Laurel sat at roughly $82,127. Today. it has risen to $100,385.

Ben and Erin's work in their small town (and now Wetumpka, Alabama in new series of Home Town Takeover) earned them a spot in the World's Greatest Leader list. As Erin tells Fortune: "Every person on earth has a history. And that’s what home is. It doesn’t matter what the whole world thinks about your home; it matters that your home is the place that’s the most personal and the most welcoming place on earth to you." You can check out the rest of the winners here.

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