Expo upgrades studied
by Rory Doyle
Feb 23, 2013 | 1498 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plans are underway to investigate possible revitalization strategies for the Bolivar County Expo Center.

The venture will operate through a partnership with the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University and will focus on planning activities for upgrades and improvements to the facility.

County Administrator Will Hooker provided an update at Tuesday's Bolivar County Board of Supervisors meeting in Rosedale.

“The primary purpose of this project will be to develop a strategy to expand the number of events hosted at the Bolivar County Expo Center and to attract visitors to increase economic activity," said Hooker.

"More simply, this is about planning a roadmap to see what the community wants and needs for the Expo Center — and what it can support."

Hooker provided an overview of the scope of work, budget expenditures and a schedule of activities that were coordinated with Stennis.

Hooker announced to the board in January that the county had been successful in receiving a 70/30 grant to offset the expense of the study, with a total grant value of $70,000.

"The project will commence with a regional market study of Bolivar County and the adjacent counties of Washington, Coahoma and Sunflower to identify the market audience for events to be held at the center," said Hooker.

This process will include an asset inventory of existing organizations that represent potential partnering entities for events and inventory of regional product and service suppliers.

A survey of existing agriculture tourism businesses will also be fulfilled.

The regional market study will include an analysis of business infrastructure, the competitive environment and an examination of the supply and demand for center activities.

During the asset inventory phase of the regional market study, the project team will identify local rural businesses that will benefit from increased utilization of the center and identify businesses that have the potential to become suppliers of products or services.

The findings of the study will then be used to develop alternative cost/benefit uses scenarios and a market potential feasibility analysis.

Alternative use scenarios will include estimates for building improvements or modifications, surrounding land use alternatives and potential additions to existing structures based on target market needs.

Upon completion of all studies and analysis, the project team will develop a business plan for the ongoing operations at the center.

“To assure that this is an inclusive process, the Board of Supervisor has asked Stennis to actively receive input from the Expo Board Committee members, community organizations and local businesses and citizens throughout the county,” said Hooker.

Expo Board Committee President Evereth Stanton said he appreciates having an outside source lead the research.

"The Stennis Institute will provide an outside eye and will give us a fair game plan," said Stanton. "They don't have the same stake in the matter that locals do, and I think this gives them the ability to give us the best input.

"We just want to find out if there's anything we can do to change the Expo to better serve the county."

The supervisors also voted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting to have Eley|Barkley, P.A. of Cleveland perform a structural analysis on the entire arena area to be provided to the Stennis.

As for Stennis, the institute is often called on to provide technical assistance and consultation to local governments and community leaders regarding economic and community development matters.

Foundations and municipalities look to Stennis for research and study of public policy issues.

It's trained facilitators focus on topics ranging from local issues of genuine public conflict, land use planning initiatives, community capacity building, electing or appointing judges, amendments in ethics legislation and more.

To learn more about Stennis, visit www.sig.msstate.edu/index.php.