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August 2009 Archives

August 17, 2009

Rural Tourism as Economic Development

It was a pleasure to attend the Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Summit last week in Marksville, LA. This annual summit rotates between Mississippi and Louisiana. It began a few years ago as an endeavor by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Louisiana State University AgCenter to help educate rural communities on the idea that tourism is a viable economic development strategy for areas of southwest Missisisppi and east central Louisiana that have tremendous recreational tourism and ecotourism resources.

This region is rich in hunting, fishing and birdwatching opportunities and agritourism-related enterprises. Many of these communities are isolated and opportunities to diversify their economic base is important. Learning and sharing from each other is important too.

Communities must always look for creative ways to capitalize on their assets and work together. I applaud this two-state region for agreeing to work collectively on improving its ability to cash in on rural tourism. To learn more about this summit, visit http://srdc.msstate.edu/misslou/.

First Impresssions:Education

We are excited at MSCAT to begin a new partnership with the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation. www.mscei.com This fall we will be supporting their efforts to engage communities for improving schools. We will be working in Belzoni, Greenwood, Port Gibson, Shelby, Duncan, Alligator, Webb, Rosedale, and Benoit. Each community will be part of our typical first impressions program. But, the exciting part is we are adding a more indepth "first impression" program for the schools. We are calling this FI:Education. In our typical FI visit, we will ride by the schools and look for general curb appeal, but we don't tour the buildings. For this project, we wanted to increase the focus on the schools as a major part of the community. To do so, we will tour the buildings. So, we've adapted our structured FI report for school visits. The first pilot visits will happen early this fall.

Two of the towns, Belzoni and Port Gibson, had FI reports completed some time ago. For those two towns, we will do a follow-up visit and look for progress to highlight. So, as always, watch for us in your town. We are on the road again this fall making visits all around the state.

August 21, 2009

On a Roll in Quitman

Most folks will agree that meetings aren't always fun, but last night's town hall meeting in Quitman was an exception. Over 150 residents came out with rain and thunderstorms all around to listen and learn ways to move their community to the next level. We applaud Mayor Fulton and all the residents for the outpouring of suppport and concern for their community. Folks showed up early and stayed late. What an awesome thing to witness!

Mississippi Development Authority and MSU's Community Action Team as well as other resource agencies were on hand to set the stage and provide information on the host of resources available to them. Understanding what the data says about your community and understanding the importance of moving forward with a collective vision and a plan to guide that vision is critical.

After the presentations were over and hotdogs were served, folks signed up on committees by the dozens. Talking, sharing, learning, VOLUNTEERING! Building community from within is what it's all about. Success will likely come quickly as these committees continue to evolve and develop strategies to tackle their goals.

The optimism and enthusiasm in the room last night was contagious. This kind of energy will surely result in positive outcomes for Quitman if this momentum continues. Keep up the good work!

August 31, 2009

Rebuilding Continues on the Coast

It's hard to believe it's been four years since Katrina--America's worst natural disaster in history. Several of us recently got back from site visits to Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Diamondhead for our First Impressions program. In some ways, it's remarkable how fast recovery is happening. In other ways, it's unbelievable how many things look the way Katrina left them.

Having spent a week on the Coast right after the storm, I can remember the horror on people's faces and in their voices. The hurricane's fury was so shocking and so surreal the wounds run deep. Even today, folks are still talking about the storm like it was yesterday. While signs of progress are all around, signs of dispair and painful memories abound.

Several business owners were optimistic. They commented on the progress being made on a daily basis--even though it sometimes seems like recovery will never end. Others are not as optimistic. For example, a local businessman in the Bay said he has gone a whole week and not sold a thing. He's even poured his life savings into his shop of 60 years to keep the doors open. He's diversified his inventory trying to capture additional dollars; it's helping.

It's, indeed, difficult to remain positive during such trying times. The difficulties with recovery combined with an economic downturn only adds insult to injury. Good things are happening though. A determined spirit permeated the entire communitiy. Time will continue to help heal the phyical and emotional scars brought by Katrina's wrath.

About August 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Dawg Tracks in August 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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