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Business, tourism group seeking positive image’

[01/30/01] Representatives of local organizations met again at the Chamber of Commerce Monday on the topic of combining efforts to achieve a variety of improvements.

The Vicksburg-Warren County Coalition of Business and Community Organizations is developing strategies to support local industry and create a stronger economy. The plan includes improving road maintenance and public safety, increasing recreation and entertainment on the riverfront, redeveloping downtown Vicksburg and promoting tourism to the area.

“If we can provide a positive image, people will want to come to Vicksburg,” said Norman Ford, acting director of the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Vicksburg Convention Center, Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Vicksburg’s Main Street Program, Warren County Port Commission, Warren County Economic Development Foundation and Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation met to discuss how to meet community needs and share information.

“The coalition is a forum for people to come together to deal with community issues,” said Paul Ellsworth, a consultant to Chamber. “The problem we’ve been running into is that as long as these organizations are operating separately, they can send conflicting messages, maybe even contradict each other. We want to bring all the organizations together to look at the issues that have been affecting the community for a long time.”

The coalition discussed priority areas such as the local economy, employment and industry and plan to continue to figure out strategies to meet their goals and objectives.

“Organization is a priority,” Ellsworth said. “We must first establish structure before there can be any decisions made.”

There are plans to conduct meetings on a monthly basis once a strategy has been devised, and a chairman elected to coordinate operations.

“We’re going to sit down and set goals and objectives and communicate with one another and assign a lead person to report back to us,” said Jimmy Heidel, chief executive of the Chamber. “Then, we will be able to accomplish more in this community.”

Working together was the theme of Heidel’s keynote speech at the Chamber’s annual meeting earlier this month. Combining strategies and advertising material is one technique the coalition is planning to use to cut costs and to avoid conflicts.

“We did five separate videos on similar things,” Heidel said. “Why shouldn’t we share it? We can make it slanted toward our own organization, but why spend three times the money when we can spend it just once?”

Heidel said the driving factor is an improved community.

“The main objective is for everyone to work together and improve the economy and quality of life in the community,” Heidel said.

Immediate goals and plans have been made including meeting with congressional delegates in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues affecting Vicksburg and Warren County.

“This is right where we need to be,” said Margaret Gilmer, immediate past president of the Chamber of Commerce. “We’re talking about what we each need.”