USA IBC takes center stage

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Published: June 5,2006

Jackson — From June 17 to July 2, the dance world’s eyes will focus on Mississippi, when the eighth USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) takes center stage in Thalia Mara Hall.

Held every four years in Jackson, the USA IBC is the nation’s premier dance event and provides Mississippi with a much-appreciated economic punch.

According to an independent study by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the two-week competition in 2002 generated an economic impact of $6.2 million for the Magnolia State, a 38% increase from the 1998 competition. Nearly 40,000 people, representing 41 states and seven foreign countries, attended the competition and its ancillary events; two million viewers tuned in to the Encore Gala broadcast live by Mississippi ETV.

In 2002, the USA IBC event reached an estimated 63.8 million through 66 local and national newspapers, 22 national and international magazines and seven broadcast stations. One highlight: an interview with IBC Honorary Chairman Edward Villella on A&E’s “Breakfast with the Arts.

“AmSouth has been a proud sponsor of this event for many years,” said Tony Sims, AmSouth’s marketing manager for Mississippi. “It’s easily one of Mississippi’s most high-profile cultural events, and the fact that it occurs but once every four years only adds to the anticipation and excitement. Again this year, we’ll be hosting a huge opening night gala at AmSouth Plaza downtown, inviting guests ranging from IBC officials and patrons to dignitaries representing Jackson and the state of Mississippi.”

During the two-week “Olympic-style” event, competitors will vie for medals, cash awards, scholarships and a chance to sign with a well-known dance company.

More than talk!

“Dozens of us will provide food for the jury lounges, the Competitor Village and the hundreds of support staff,” said Jeff Good, co-owner of Bravo!, Broad Street Bakery and Broad Street Express. “Jackson restaurateurs don’t just talk hospitality, they live it.”

To make the four-event spectacular, 1,500 people on 20 volunteer committees tend to behind-the-scene details.

“When I saw the potential for what the IBC could do for the state, I got behind it because I believed in what they were doing,” said Alan Wilson, president of Howard Wilson Chrysler-Jeep in Flowood Wilson, who provides transportation for the event.

‘Fabric of a good community’

Steven G. Rogers, president and CEO of Parkway Properties Inc. (NYSE: PKY), said the Jackson-based national company financially supports the IBC “because we think events like this are important to the fabric of a good community,” he said. “Communities aren’t just bricks and mortar. They’re about the cultural activities and the civic activities that take place inside those boxes.

“In our case, we wanted to be supportive of this worldwide competition that happens to be held in only four cities. Jackson is fortunate to be one of those four. We want the event to continue coming back here so people will come and take their good impression back with them to their hometowns of what they saw in Jackson.”

Gray Wiggers, senior vice president of public affairs for Trustmark Corporation (NASDAQ: TRMK), said the Mississippi-based bank, which was recently selected as the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellent in the Arts in Civic Leadership, has been a leader in community building for decades.

“We believe by supporting economic and cultural initiatives such as the International Ballet Competition, we not only help bring valuable tourism revenues to our state, we help enrich the lives of our fellow Mississippians,” he said. “Trustmark is delighted to be a continuing partner as well as one of the charter sponsors.”

Back home

With only days until the IBC opens, downtown Jackson merchants are gearing up in various ways, said John Lawrence, president of Jackson Downtown Partners.

Good said the IBC allows restaurateurs to “gain what may be their broadest audience, with folks from Budapest devouring a Hal & Mal’s shrimp po’ boy, Lithuanians having a plate of Crechale’s onion rings, or Cubans enjoying the bruschetta at Bravo!.”

“These guests take their experiences home, and these positive food-related experiences speak for our hometown and state to others,” he said. “They become tangible evidence of what we are, not just the perceptions of what we are thought to be.”

Lawrence said the prestigious event has a dramatic ripple effect.

“Of course, the competition is priority one and those competitors spend a lot of money eating and entertaining when they aren’t practicing,” he said. “But the galas and the workshops and the special programs bring a wide local audience to the arts and into downtown, too. Then it introduces so many additional visitors to all that Jackson has to offer through first hand experience. Finally, cultural events are now so closely tied to economic development. People can work anywhere in the world they want. These types of events help prospective employees and businesses choose Jackson as their home and that makes convincing them to bring you business so much easier.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

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