Hooker informed the board of supervisors in his report on Monday that the county had been approved for partial economic/community funding through a partnership with the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership, which will perform the study.
He said he began the talks with the Center in April but that things really began to move forward in July when the board began discussions about the future of the property.
"Back in July the board, with input from the appointed Expo Committee, began discussions on improvement plans for the Expo Center," said Hooker. "It was during that meeting that the board approved the application for funding and partnership agreement process."
He added that with the county using tourism as a vital economic tool to grow the area, he believed a study of this kind could continue to build upon the tools that have already been put into place by things, like the Mississippi Blues Trail and the Grammy Museum.
"I just feel like we need to get an outside, independent opinion about how we could better utilize the facilities and take a holistic approach," said Hooker. "Other Delta counties like Tunica, for example, have found their niche with similar properties that have helped their community's marketability tremendously.
"I just want to provide this board with an update that we have been contacted by the Stennis Center saying that we did receive a grant that would help us (county) offset the cost of a study into what steps we need to take in improving the expo center and making it a more vital tool to the economic development of the area," he continued.
Hooker said that the funding will allow the county to have a marketing analysis and a feasibility study into the economic impact and possibilities of the property so that the county could prioritize things that we think can, and should, be improved.
"This strategy would be a help to the entire county because it gives us a plan of action," Hooker added. "By coming to a partnership with the Stennis Center for Public Service we can present a real strategic plan, consisting of short and long term goals, in moving forward at the Expo Center.
"We are proposing to develop an analysis of the market potential of the facility and how various improvements and strategies could enhance the use of the facility and the feasibility of such strategies. We propose to conduct an assessment of the tourism mix in the region and how best to position the facility within the goals of the county."
Hooker commented that the Stennis group would work closely with the Board of Supervisors, the facility’s advisory board (Expo Committee) and community stakeholders to provide them with insight into realistic possibilities for the facility and the further development of tourism and recreation in Bolivar County.
The Stennis Center for Public Service is a federal, legislative branch agency created by Congress in 1988 to promote and strengthen public service leadership in America.
It is headquartered in Starkville, adjacent to Mississippi State University and has an office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Programs of the Stennis Center are funded through an endowment plus private contributions from foundations and corporations.
Hooker added that the study would be on plans for both buildings and all the surrounding property at the site.