By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The future is uncertain for BancorpSouth Conference Center employees, but at least one high-profile worker knows what’s in store.
Joshua Simpson no longer is executive chef at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The change came after the BancorpSouth Arena on Thursday took over operations of the conference center.
Simpson on Friday said the position was eliminated with the new operations agreement. Previously, Master Hospitality operated the Hilton and the conference center and Simpson oversaw food service in both.
He said he’s staying on during the transition period and then he plans to focus on his catering business, Southern Twists.
“It’s a great thing for me and my company to be able to dedicate my full attention to Southern Twists,” he said.
He also said some of the Master Hospitality employees are going with him to work for Southern Twists.
Todd Hunt, director of the arena, said he plans to put out a call for bids to run catering at the conference center. If that happens, Simpson said he’s interested.
“I’ll be the first in line,” he said.
As for the remaining employees, their fates could be determined by Hunt and Scott Reed, chairman of the Tupelo Coliseum Commission. They said they hope to cut expenses by using arena employees to work at the conference center. Hunt also said he suspects the arena may need to add a position or two to help with the center.
About 90 people are on the payroll for Master Hospitality, according to Shari Neely, director of sales for Master Hospitality and the Hilton Garden Inn. She said many employees work in both the conference center and the Hilton.
“It’s just too hard for me to tell if these are specific (employees) for the conference center,” she said Thursday. Neely previously oversaw operations at the conference center.
She and her staff are helping this month during the transition, but after that, she said she no longer has responsibility for the conference center. She’ll focus on sales at the Hilton instead.
“It’s a fluid situation as we all are learning how to make this work,” Neely said.