By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton pledged support this week to civic and community leaders to revitalize the city, make the place “cool” for young professionals and a take collaborative leadership approach.
The speech just wasn’t where he had planned to give it.
Snow and traces of ice earlier this week led Shelton to reschedule his annual State of the City address for the second time.
He joked Friday to Tupelo’s Kiwanis Club about postponing his major speech, now rescheduled for Feb. 24 at the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
“I’d planned to give a recap of the State of the City address and go over how brilliant it was,” Shelton said, smiling.
Instead, he offered a bit of a preview for what he might say later this month by mentioning his political campaign goals of significantly increasing Tupelo’s population and encouraging more tourism.
Tupelo’s 2010 Census population of 34,546 showed less than 1 percent growth and led city leaders to seek strategies to grow the population, likely leading to increases in city tax revenue used to enhance the area.
Half the city’s revenue comes from sales tax, increased through tourism. City tax revenue hikes significantly when people spend the night instead of just visiting for the day.
Current city efforts include opening a $12 million aquatic center and pledging financial support for a replica Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and making upgrades to the Elvis Presley Birthplace, the state’s top tourism site.
“We must continue to push and promote this destination to attract a new generation of fans,” he said.
Shelton said he welcomes community input as he explores ways local government can encourage growth. He said revitalizing areas like South Gloster Street is important but are details to any plan.
“You have to find the right mix of incentives enough to work without cutting into our tax base,” he said.