Meridian Star

November 14, 2012

Officials discuss tourism’s future

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Location, location, location.

    That's what the old saying about real estate says, but it's equally true when it comes to tourism.

    Tourism consultant Robert Ratliff says Meridian and Lauderdale County have a lot of positives when it comes to attracting tourism to the area. Ratliff was among participants Tuesday in a retreat designed to allow county leaders and tourism officials to brainstorm ideas to promote the area.

    The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors and the Lauderdale Tourism Commissioners attended the retreat at the request of Dede Mogollon, the new executive director of the Tourism Bureau.

    "You have a great new director and the team that's assembled, they're going to do great things," Ratliff said. "I have no doubt. Having been a tourism director for 14 years, I see the ground being laid here today for great things to happen."

    Ratliff said it was good to see county supervisors sit down with tourism commissioners to work on plans to promote tourism.

    "This has been a wonderful day of sharing ideas, concerns, questions," Ratliff said. "I don't think this is something that's going to end today. I think this will be a series of great get-togethers that Dede will be facilitating from here on out. I think she has set the ground work for awesome new things to happen."

    Mogollon said the meeting helped form a new strategy for promoting tourism.

    "We've had an incredibly interactive meeting today where all of the commissioners and the supervisors that were in attendance gave opinions and brainstormed," Mogollon said. "We think we'll be able to come out of this meeting with a new mission statement and goals. We'll have lots of new information coming out shortly about what was discussed in the meeting."

    Wade Sims, president of the Tourism Commission said the meeting helped to refocus their efforts to market Lauderdale County and Meridian.

    "The fact is we have 40,000 cars a day that pass through our area through the interstate and we have a great history," Sims said. "We want to promote that history to people who are just stopping by."

    Joe Norwood, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, said the meeting was exactly what he had hoped it would be.

    "It was an opportunity for the commission, the executive director and the Board of Supervisors to sit down and work out any issues we had with one another or with tourism," Norwood said. "This meeting has helped us put everything, every issue we had on the table, to make sure we're focusing on Meridian and Lauderdale County. That's what I was hoping for."

    Hank Florey, District One supervisor, said the retreat was enlightening.

    "Frankly, I've learned more about tourism than I ever knew," Florey said. "We're not on a mountaintop and we're not on a seashore but we've got a lot to offer. It's a bigger business than you think."