The Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau wants to market Meridian as the Southeast’s premiere place to hold meetings and conventions — and the agency wants to partner with hotels to make that happen.

Tourism officials, along with Leading Edges advertising agency, have designed an ad campaign that they plan to launch in the March edition of Convention South magazine. The campaign — “Meet in Meridian” — is designed to draw conferences to Meridian and in turn help to promote the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts.

Cecilia Derrington, tourism director, told hotel owners and managers at a quarterly property meeting Wednesday that they will reap the benefits of the community’s attracting meetings and convention groups. The meeting was held at the Holiday Inn Northeast on Highway 11/80.

“There are several people we need to work together with,” Derrington said. “And this meeting was to get everyone on the same page: the properties, transportation, the new MSU Riley Center meeting facility, and we wanted to get our city and county officials in here so everybody could see how it is all going to work.”

The ad will run in the March edition of the magazine, which Derrington said will be distributed next week. The ad will run on the front inside cover adjacent to a full-page article that includes descriptions of Meridian’s meeting venues and historical and cultural attractions.

De De Mogollon, conference sales manager for the MSU Riley Center, told the group she will recruit regional, state and corporate conferences. She said the success of the MSU Riley Center will depend on whether conference attendees have a pleasurable experience while in Meridian.

Mogollon said she realizes there will not be a lot for attendees to do downtown initially. She also acknowledged a lack of downtown dining options.

“But we have a lot of things to sell here, and tourism and the Riley Center should work hand-in-hand,” she said.

Also attending the meeting were Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith; members of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors; Susan Speed, sales director of the Mississippi Tourism Association; and Michelle Russ, a representative of Convention South.

Steve Anderson, general manager of Meridian’s three Holiday Inn properties, told guests that a new 133-room, six-story Hilton Garden Inn will soon be under construction beside the Holiday Inn Northeast. He said the hotel is set to open in the spring of 2007.

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