October 6, 2013 12:37:34 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Increased Greater Starkville Development Partnership revenues will help pay for more advertising and marketing, a tool CEO Jennifer Gregory says directly impacts tourism and out-of-town spending in Starkville.
The organization, which is now fully devoted to community development after area officials entered into an economic development contract late last year with the Golden Triangle Development Link, posted a budget that accounts for $17,000 in new revenues from chamber members' investments and an Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority contract.
Extra monies will help fund $5,000 worth of extra advertisement efforts aimed at increasing Starkville's visibility and the first raises GSDP employees have seen in years. In all, the Partnership's budget is revenue-positive, plotting $646,200 in combined revenue and $639,029 in expenses. That expense figure includes the organization's $100,000 commitment to regional economic development.
The Partnership has seen a direct correlation between advertising and tourism numbers, Gregory said.
The organization aggressively markets its seasonal events series, including fall's New South Weekends, spring's Savor Our South and summer's Dog Days of Summer.
Since 2009, Starkville has experienced a 30 percent increase in tourism spending in the county. Sales tax figures continue to show growth in the same time period.
"We've seen a very direct correlation between launching our marketing campaign and staying aggressive with that campaign, and tourism's economic impact in Oktibbeha County," Gregory said.
"We're essentially the only organization marketing Starkville as a community, and we plan to stay the course with our plan."
As part of its new dedication to quality of life issues in Starkville, the Partnership is playing a lead role in helping the city become C Spire's first recipient of Fiber to the Home, an initiative that will offer ultra-fast, home Internet access to communities across Mississippi. C Spire is expected to announce its target city this fall and provide service by 2014.
Gregory has traveled with officials to Ridgeland for at least two work sessions with C Spire officials and is managing a portion of the city's application for services.
C Spire also announced plans to construct a $22 million data-processing center in the Thad Cochran Research Park Thursday. Link CEO Joe Max Higgins praised Gregory and the Partnership, among others, for their role in regional economic development initiatives.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch