Thursday, April 7, 2011
Chamber moves forward
By SUE WATSON
The quarterly luncheon of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce last week brought out one main and recent feat – partnerships are drawing the communities in Marshall County and the region together.
Chamber president Greg Campbell, in a state of the chamber talk, said 2010 was a rough year. The chamber had wonderful help from Suzanne Langley and Lisa Liddy to make it through tough times last year. They kept the office open on a shoestring.
He then offered words of encouragement.
“This year, the future is before us,” he said. “There is no looking back.”
The concept of moving forward as partners was restated many times over at the luncheon by directors and committee chairs of three organizations that now work as one unit – the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Bureau, and Holly Springs Main Street Association.
“We can make Holly Springs a great place for all of us,” said David Beckley, president of Rust College, in welcoming remarks at the Beckley Center.
He chaired the Main Street board for two years in its infancy.
Chamber executive director Rebecca Bourgeois agreed.
“We are in exciting times for the chamber and Holly Springs,” she said as she announced the names of four new board members – Eric Randall, Bubba Hubbard, Suzanne Langley and Fannie Lampley.
The chamber, drawing upon the ideas and participation of more businesses and people in the community, will become more effective in completing its mission, she said.
“I believe the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce can make a difference in the quality of life as members join to make this a better place,” she said, “a place where we can build a community we can be proud of, a place to raise our children and a place to grow our businesses.”
Tourism Bureau executive director Stephanie McKinney said tourists are coming into the city already to enjoy the amenities of Holly Springs and will continue to arrive for several weeks to enjoy architecture, the arts, and the culture of the area.
“Call, email or fax your events to us,” she said. (Tourism’s phone number is 662-252-2515, fax 252-2696, email email@example.com).
She announced the native plants sale, set for May 14 at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center.
Andy McMillon, president of the Main Street board, reviewed the progress of committees and the purpose of the organization - to rebuild deteriorated downtown areas across America.
“Main Street is built on volunteerism,” he said. “Main Street works with the businesses in the Main Street corridor, so we all are pulling the same way. The design committee is to pretty things up. Promotions is to bring people to town. Our Bikers and Blues night was well received and will start again July 14. Our Farmers Market starts May 7 and will promote local growers. The economic restructuring group tries to bring business people and businesses back downtown.”
Bourgeois thanked Bill Mobley, director of the Industrial Development Authority, and Sarah Sawyer, director of the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce, for helping her get settled in her two jobs – executive director of both the chamber and Main Street.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry provided a review of recent accomplishments of the city of Holly Springs and of new dreams. At a recent meeting in Oxford, participants with Blueprint 2011 were asked if they envision their child having to leave Mississippi to find a job when they graduate. Fifty-six respondents in the Northeast Mississippi region thought they would have to leave and, overall, 65 percent thought their children and grandchildren would have to leave.
“The question is, how to stop the exodus of our children and grandchildren?” he said. “Blueprint 2011 talks about how business creates opportunities to make Mississippi safe and inviting.”
Some recent accomplishments by the City of Holly Springs he cited, included – the Martin Street Housing project; the reconstruction of MI College Homes Apartments, a $6.4 million project; and plans for construction of a 2-million-gallon-a-day sewer treatment facility in the city at a price tag of $14 million.
“People are now beginning to see there is some worth in this thing we call life,” DeBerry said.
Another prospect is interested in building 200 homes in Holly Springs, he said.
“They said they like the community,” he said. “It’s a testimony to the city.”
DeBerry said he hopes the city can help facilitate the goals of each organization as a partner.
“I think it is important for us to work together,” he said. “At some point in time, we ought to have a collective goal and then we will decide how to get there. I challenge you to go out and get others to become members of the chamber, tourism, and Main Street.”
The theme for the luncheon was partnership.
Peggy Linton, with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, one of the city’s newest partners, reviewed various ways the foundation works with communities to solve problems.
“There are lots of great things happening in Marshall County,” she said. “Our mission is connecting people who care with causes that matter in an eight-county area.”
Individuals can participate as donors or in initiatives, she said. The Early Childhood Education initiative is working in all eight counties. The Childhood Obesity initiative hopes to stop childhood obesity, and the diseases that result in adulthood, through healthy food choices and lifestyles. There is a volunteer center initiative.
Two organizations – the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Bouchillon Institute for community planning in North Mississippi – are contributing to the projects and initiatives. The Bouchillon Institute contracts with governments to make environmental policy changes that will lead to healthy communities.
Get-A-Life educates school children about healthy food choices at school so they can be role models for their parents and future generations. Project Fit brings exercise routines to the classrooms. After school Dance Revolution uses play and exercise machines as incentives for children to work out. Some churches are becoming partners by using their parking lots as a place for walking. New exercise bars installed on school playgrounds improve upper body strength. Some school cafeterias have eliminated fried foods.
Linton said Hernando’s farmers market serves as a place to buy locally-grown fruits and vegetables and is becoming a tourist attraction. She quoted from Mrs. Johnson with the foundation – “It’s hard to live a healthy life, if you do not live in a healthy community.”
Some volunteers were recognized for their long-time support of the chamber. Lynn Pullen, who has served many years as a volunteer and as a past president, received a plaque of appreciation.
Coming up – Chamber Business After Hours, will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, April 7, at Tyson Drug Co. and the Funky Monkey, on the square in Holly Springs.
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