Tourism group to gather research for region's future

By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance has a workshop at 1:30 p.m. today to discuss the future of the region’s national heritage area.
The group is gathering input to form the management plan for the area. The free workshop is at the Mississippi Hills exhibit center, which is inside the Renasant Center for IDEAs at 398 E. Main St. in Fairpark.
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 area covers 19 full counties and portions of 11 others in the northeastern part of Mississippi.
The alliance board met in June and heard research findings from Phil Walker of Nashville-based Walker Collaborative. He said Northeast Mississippi has many stories to tell, but it needs to focus on a few things that are easy to market to visitors.
The overarching themes for the region – as identified by a preliminary report from consultants – were black history, the Civil War, the arts and architecture. The board of the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance also discussed an itinerary themed around the region’s Native American history.
The board is responsible for overseeing the Hills national heritage area, a region that 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.
The organization’s managers in a news release said stakeholders from all the communities within the heritage area are encouraged to attend and provide input this afternoon. The workshop will feature breakout groups that address themes, marketing and implementation strategies.
On Thursday, Walker and his team will have a follow-up presentation with what they’ve done this week. The presentation is at 1:30 p.m. in the exhibit center.

Click video to hear audio