Tourism tops county’s priority list
by Courtney Warren
Mar 28, 2014 | 4151 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tourism is on top in Cleveland after a survey was taken in December as part of the Mississippi Economic Council's Blueprint Mississippi Pathway to Progress Tour.

According to a press release, Blueprint Mississippi, the state’s long-term strategic action plan, was released in January 2012 with nine goals and 33 recommendations.

What was given the most attention was the majority vote for tourism in regards to what the greatest opportunity for economic growth in the region is.

Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell was not surprised by the results and sees tourism as one of the city's top priorities.

"Without a doubt tourism is the most important thing. The city and board known tourism is our asset now and in the future," he said.

The Grammy Museum has yet to arrive and the mayor believes that without a doubt the installation of the Grammy Museum will only bring in more tourists and benefit the economy, however, he said there are many other things that draw people to Cleveland.

"The downtown shops, good eating, and the great events DSU has at the BPAC and athletic events drive the economy now," he said.

"I am pleased and encouraged to see the faith that people in our county see in the future of tourism. It is something that continues to grow, change and evolve in our area, and we are really beginning to tap in to the expansive market of visitors who are interested in not only the blues and music, but also African-American heritage, railroad heritage, art lovers and many other different groups," said Kelli Cotton, tourism manager for the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce.

"Tourism is something that doesn’t take a whole lot of bricks and mortar, but more recognizing what a town already has and marketing those areas of interest to people-so it’s something that has very little investment, but can be a huge return. I think it should be considered one of our top economic impact areas, and I am so glad people realize the potential," she said.

Cotton also believes the city and county have grown because of tourism and will continue to do so.

"Our city and county have grown so much in regards to tourism. I recently put together a great Blues driving brochure for the whole county, and it highlights all the Mississippi Blues Trail Markers, as well as other areas of interest. If you really look at it on paper, we have an enormous amount to offer visitors.

“With the Grammy Museum Mississippi in our future, it is only going to grow by leaps and bounds. I certainly hope that our residents, and others, will come to invest in the area because of the vast amount of visitors we will see. It is only going to lead to bigger and better things, but we certainly need to be ready for these visitors when they come as well. It’s a constant work in progress," she said.

Despite Cleveland being a small area Cotton said there is always something wonderful to do.

"Cleveland is an amazing place. I think most people who come and visit are just astounded by the number of things to do and see in such a small area. We are such a melting pot of different cultures and I think it makes Cleveland such a unique destination.

“Painters, singers, writers, and other artists have been trying to capture the Delta’s mystique for ages, and I think that Cleveland is a great place for people to see, because it’s a great mix of the authentic, as well as the modern. There really is something for everyone," she said.

Attendees of the Cleveland stop were also polled on which Blueprint Mississippi goals should be considered top priorities.

Responses were spread amongst multiple topics, with 21 percent indicating that educational achievement was the top priority and 15 percent voting workforce as an additional major priority.

The results showed the top three priorities for Cleveland were educational achievement with 21.94 percent, workforce with 15.58 percent, and infrastructure with 14.23 percent.

The survey showed the majority of pollers believe in order to meet Mississippi's workforce needs the career and technical curriculum in high school is very important.

The survey also showed residents believe it is very important for Mississippi to have common educational state standards in order to drive student performance and compare outcomes with national, regional, and state data with 56.52 percent.