February 22, 2012 11:55:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- If you've got ideas on how to make Starkville a more baller town, an interactive forum is the place to be Monday night.
The Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau and Starkville Main Street Association will host a TweetChat town hall meeting on Monday, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. via the hashtag #Starkville2012. Main Street's Twitter handle @mscollegetown will moderate the chat for spammers and vulgar posts.
"This came about from a Twitter conversation (Monday) by various people, students, anonymous users, and residents," said Jennifer Gregory, chief operating officer of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. "So basically, there was some discussion that got really negative, and so a lot of people got defensive, including myself. It seemed as if people were just hating on Starkville and not recognizing the progress that was made."
Gregory said the discussion will be open to whatever topics and dialogue arises.
"We hope this will provide a constructive outlet for those suggestions on how to make Starkville better," Gregory said.
Gregory said Mississippi State University professor Whit Waide, Reflector editor Hannah Rogers and Alderman Jeremiah Dumas will help answer questions.
"We want to hear their opinions, too," Gregory said. "Even though all of the issues won't be targeted to the CVB, we felt like it was a great opportunity to lead the conversation for people to make comments. Even though we don't make city ordinances or have anything to do with law enforcement -- topics brought up last night -- we want them to be brought up. This is a true community forum through social media."
Gregory said there was some apprehension about hosting the forum because she didn't want to create a platform for people from other communities or no ties to Starkville to flood the forum with negative comments.
"We're not naive," Gregory said. "I anticipate a lot of it to include suggestions and a lot of honesty. But in order for us to continue to grow, that's what we want. But I do hope people will stop and take the chance to learn a little bit about Starkville."
Gregory said she hopes to highlight the 25 percent boost in tourism spending over the last two years and the fact there's not an empty retail front on Main Street.
"In the 10 year's I've been here, that's not been the case," she said.
On the city's end, she said Sunday alcohol sales and the re-zoning of corridors to Mississippi State to encourage more development are positive steps.
"Buffalo Wild Wings would have never come here if we didn't have Sunday sales," Gregory said.
TweetChat will allow the CVB and Main Street to save a copy of chat transcript. Both organizations will use the feedback to help pattern advertising strategies. Gregory said the CVB and Main Street will consider hosting additional forums.
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