Jackson — These days, Linda McCarthy is constantly on the run.
As manager of the Mississippi Telecommunications and Conference Center being built in downtown Jackson, she is overseeing the completion of construction, booking events, hiring a staff, and coordinating contract services, among a multitude of tasks.
Despite the hectic pace, McCarthy said she is glad to be back home in Mississippi, helping move forward tourism in the heart of the Magnolia State.
The University of Southern Mississippi alum, also a graduate of the IAAM Oglebay Facility Management School in Wheeling, W. Va., worked as executive director of the Houma Civic Center in Louisiana, marketing director for Bayfront Center/Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Fla., and convention sales manager for the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi. Most recently, she was executive director of the Peachtree City Tourism Association in Atlanta.
McCarthy took time to answer a few questions that were on readers’ minds about the new high-tech facility.
Mississippi Business Journal: The TelCom Center is scheduled to open this November. Give us a glimpse of what remains to be done by opening day.
Linda McCarthy: The facility is 87% complete (as of August 26) and is scheduled for substantial completion on September 30. Our preliminary plans are for the TelCom facility staff to move in shortly thereafter, with the first event scheduled for early November.
The contractor is in the homestretch now, completing all the interior finish work such as laying terrazzo tile, installing the wood wall panels, and preparing floors to lay carpet. The TelCom Center design is truly beautiful and the citizens of Jackson and the entire state should be very proud of their new facility.
Based on the event schedule and workload, we will have a soft opening sometime in November, with plans for a community-wide grand opening in the spring. Bishop Robert Etheridge from Texas, who has booked the facility for the World Assemblies Restoration Conference, has made Mississippi history as the first person to sign on the dotted line.
MBJ: Tell us about your staff.
LM: The TelCom Center will require approximately eight full-time staff in the areas of event services, operations, maintenance, administration, finance and customer service. In addition, we will require many part-time, event-related staff that will fluctuate based on the event load. In keeping with our priority and mission of economic development, all positions will be filled from our local area market.
MBJ: Have you determined the businesses that will handle contracted services?
LM: Our contracted services will include private security, landscaping and floral, catering, audio/visual, technology, part-time staffing and pest control. We have completed an extensive RFP (request for proposal) process and should have these contracts in place within the next two weeks. Again, in keeping with our priority and mission of economic development, all contracts will be filled from our local area market.
MBJ: How has Jackson’s newest meeting facility impacted the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau’s efforts to aggressively promote the metro area?
LM: The Jackson CVB sells, promotes and markets the entire city, which includes our great hotels, restaurants, events and attractions. Jackson has always been a strong, first-class product to promote, and the new facilities and developments downtown will not only strengthen our offerings, but also make our total package even more attractive and allow us to go after larger events.
With the TelCom Center opening, the Capital City Convention Center project underway, the Farish Street Entertainment development, and the slated improvements to the Mississippi Arts District, Jackson can more aggressively compete with other cities in the region to bring larger conventions, meetings and tradeshows to Jackson, bringing with them new, outside dollars to our community.
The convention industry and, in particular, convention attendees, provide a positive economic impact to Jackson. As established by the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, the average convention attendee spends slightly over $139.77 per day during a convention. Although much of the initial expenditure is within the hospitality-related industry, there clearly is a trickle-down effect. The Mississippi TelCom Center is the initial catalyst in securing those meetings and conventions, and the Jackson CVB offers a one-stop shop to these events by offering the total event experience.
MBJ: Tell us how the TelCom Center fits in with the entire Convention District project.
LM: We’re not just building a TelCom Center or a Convention Center, we’re building an entire Convention District that will offer much more than meeting space. It will be positioned at the apex of the arts and entertainment districts so delegates can walk over to the Mississippi Museum of Art, for example, to see an exhibit or catch a movie at the planetarium or a performance at Thalia Mara Hall. Or they can walk down Farish Street and grab a bite to eat, hear some great live music, shop for local art in one of the galleries or learn about Farish Street’s rich cultural heritage.
The district will be a tourism attraction, as well as a popular spot for locals and a strong economic development tool for Jackson and the State of Mississippi. With this area drawing newcomers, we can then introduce them to the rest of the capital city and its superb shopping, dining, hotels and attractions, such as the Jackson Zoo and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.