Vicksburg delegation travels to Kentucky for benchmarking trip

Published 2:24 pm Friday, November 19, 2021

A delegation from Vicksburg, headed by Mayor George Flaggs Jr., traveled to Paducah, Ky. earlier this week for a benchmarking session and to exchange ideas.

While in Paducah, the group from Vicksburg heard from Paducah Mayor George Bray, the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city’s engineering, planning and parks departments, Barkley Regional Airport and Sprocket Coworking Center. Flaggs was joined by Tiffany Pendleton, Esq., assistant to the mayor; Johnny Reynolds, Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau representative; Kim Hopkins, director of Vicksburg Main Street; Jeff Richardson, city of Vicksburg landscape architect; Kelle Barfield, business owner; and Kendra Reed, business owner.

For Flaggs, a highlight of the trip was learning how Paducah’s riverfront connects to its tourism and downtown retail — and it’s something he plans to replicate in Vicksburg.

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“I was so impressed with how they connect their downtown retail with their riverboats and the riverfront. That’s something I would love to be able to do, and I think we can do it,” he said. “I love how they made their riverfront more family friendly. It was a clean city, and I am thankful we were able to travel to see Paducah in person.”

Paducah was chosen because it was named in a Vicksburg Waterfront Downtown Riverfront Improvements Report as a comparable city to Vicksburg. Both cities are riverfront communities in the South and focused on the arts with similar population sizes. The Vicksburg delegation came looking for best practices as they prepare to move forward on developing a stronger riverfront presence adjacent to the downtown retail area.

Barfield, who owns Lorelei Books and several properties in Downtown Vicksburg, said she was most interested in the way Paducah’s downtown merchants work together to solve issues.

“When you grow, you experience growing pains — things like events that take up parking or new construction that obstructs views. I took away some lessons on how they pool their downtown merchants together to find solutions,” she said. “The other takeaway for me is their grant process. There are a lot of things we can continue to do to develop and grow, and they have mastered that process. You have to attract not just local entrepreneurs, but also people from the outside.

“Vicksburg is making great strides, but we need to continue. Our reputation has to grow beyond our city, county and even our region.”

Reed also benefited from the trip.

“The more we learned about Paducah, the more things we found in common,” Reed said.

Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce President and Mayor Pro-Tem Sandra Wilson said the Kentucky delegation hopes to visit Vicksburg at some point.

“We definitely want to go to Vicksburg and see some of the things that they’re doing, and they have a lot more river boats than we do, so we want to find out — you know, how maybe we could get even more,” she said. “So, yes, I think there were a lot of ideas that we want to exchange with them.”

“It would help us — it may help them, because we could then share two cities together in the same room,” Flaggs said. “We know their city, but they don’t know our city, and if they come to see our city, then it could be much more helpful to both cities, I think.”

Paducah hosts and speakers included Bray, Wilson, City Manager Daron Jordan, City Engineer Rick Murphy, Planning Director and Principal Planner Nic Hutchison, Parks and Recreation Director Aimie Clark, Airport Executive Director Dennis Rouleau, Katie Axt with the Main Street Association, Executive Director Monica Bilak Sprocket and President of West Kentucky Community and Technical College Dr. Anton Reece.

Kelly Farrell of The Paducah Sun contributed to this report.