Consultants: Hills region needs concise identity

By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Consultants on Thursday recommended to Northeast Mississippi tourism leaders that they capitalize on their African-American, Civil War, Music & Literature and Native American heritage.
The recommendations came as part of a research process from the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance, which manages the Hills national heritage area.
The information came partly from focus groups gathered Tuesday to hear what residents and tourism leaders thought was important to market to tourists.
The focus group feedback led consultants to replace an architecture theme with the Native American theme.
The consultants, led by Phil Walker of Nashville-based Walker Collaborative, also recommended a better marketing approach for the region.
“We’re trying to figure out how to give the Mississippi Hills more of a concise identity,” said Randy Gross of Randall Gross Development Economics. “People around the world get the Delta. They know what it is and they think Delta Blues. International tourists don’t know what the Mississippi Hills are.”
They proposed “Mississippi Hills: Where Appalachia meets the Delta” as a possible marketing phrase.
The ideas will be incorporated into a management plan for the heritage area.
The national heritage area is a federally recognized region bordered by Highway 55 on the west, Highway 14 on the south, the Tennessee state line on the north and the Alabama state line on the east.
The region gets local, state and federal funding. As part of the national heritage area program, the board must develop a management plan.
It’s paying Walker $150,000 to do the research and put together the plan.
carlie.wells@journalinc.com