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Cackett high on potential for new tourism support program

Marika Cackett

Marika Cackett

Marika Cackett is the communications and public relations manager for the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB has launched Team Jackson, an initiative to bring stakeholders around the city together on a regular basis to share ideas about how to improve Jackson.


Q — What can you tell us about Team Jackson?


A — At Team Jackson, our mission is to be a diverse collaboration of organizations and individuals from across the City of Jackson, joined together for information sharing and cooperative team building, to assure our continued positive momentum.


Team Jackson is an organization committed to showcasing all that is happening in Jackson. It is open for membership to any individual or organization, no matter its purpose, to become involved in our city through informational meetings, special events and programs. Membership is $100 a year per organization.


Team Jackson will meet on the third Tuesday of every other month from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. These bi-monthly luncheon meetings will be held at various locations all over the city. Each meal will be $20 a person. If anyone in your organization would like to attend, reservations must be made in advance. Lunch will start at 11:45 a.m., with programs beginning at noon.


Each meeting will feature two development or non-profit presentations, two Shoutouts and two Spotlights. Each Shoutout will be a short introduction of a new business or venture. Spotlights will introduce local heroes or involved people that many of you don’t know. There will also be an annual meeting as well as a city-visit trip every other year. Committees have been formed but are flexible if you would like to get involved.


Team Jackson is a great way to get involved in our capital city to learn firsthand what is going on. So often people want to get involved but do not know how – Team Jackson is that opportunity.


Q — How did Team Jackson get its start?


A — It all started with a visit from the Kresge Foundation and Helen Davis Johnson on creative place-making. The foundation had heard of Jackson because of the creative economy study done by the Mississippi Arts Commission and wanted to find out more about Jackson. Johnson came to Jackson and spent a week here meeting with different groups around town. From those meetings spawned a desire from organizations and individuals across the city and from all walks of life to get together on a regular basis, share ideas, get to know what’s happening around the city and be a positive force for movement in Jackson.


Q — Jackson has gotten some new events the past year or so — Warrior Dash and Color Me Rad, for example. To what do you attribute that?


A — Jackson has really taken advantage of the growing alternative sporting market. From races like the Warrior Dash and Color Me Rad to hosting the Junior Olympic Nationals in 2014, Jackson is attracting more sporting events. With the infrastructure in place having the Convention Center, the Equine Center, Coliseum and numerous other outlets that can host events, Jackson is centrally located at the crossroads of (interstates) 55 and 20, which makes travel to and from these events a breeze. Also, because many of these events involve families, Jackson is able to attract these events based on our various attractions, restaurants and variety of hotel properties. We can offer event planners the same attributes, amenities, etc. of larger cities… without the big price tag.


Q — Are there similar events we’ll hear about in 2013?


A — The Color Run will be here in July. Warrior Dash is expanding to two days because of the popularity of the event last year. The Junior Olympic Women’s Gymnastics event will be held here in 2014 with the regional qualifier being held in 2013 in Jackson, as well.


Q — As far as building a tourism economy, what are Jackson’s strengths? What are the city’s weaknesses?


A — What do meeting planners look for when planning a sporting event or tournament? You need the right facilities to accommodate your group. You want comfortable, convenient lodgings, great food and courteous service with plenty of activities and attractions that offer one good time after another.


Jackson fills every requirement. Jackson is an exciting, attractive city, conveniently located in Central Mississippi on an axis that runs from Chicago to New Orleans and from Atlanta to Dallas. Jackson has a brand new 330,000-square-foot convention complex that includes 85,000 square feet of open exhibit hall space.


When there’s free time between meetings, Jackson has quite a variety of sights and attractions to please even the most discerning individual. With over 5,800 first-class hotel/motel rooms, there’s always a comfortable, convenient place to stay, and one that fits any budget.


Life in this city pulses with music — gospel, blues, rock, jazz, classical and everything in between — born from a tradition steeped in the arts. Scores of unique museums and outdoor attractions, hundreds of events and festivals, three historic cultural districts, innumerable visual and performing arts, hot sports action and cool nightlife await tourists in Jackson.


The South is known for its fine cuisine, drawn from the tables of the world and interpreted by culinary masters with a Southern flair. Jackson’s 250+ restaurants serve a heaping helping of this authentic Southern flare, along with varied international dishes. Many offer convention and banquet facilities.


Right now the main weakness we have is the lack of a connecting convention center hotel. Jackson missed out on about $14 million in economic impact last year from lost business for lack of a convention center hotel. Many groups require a city to have a connected hotel to even be considered for a bid.


Q — To follow up on that, in the future, how will the CVB help to build on the strengths and improve the weaknesses?


A — We will continue to find new markets in which to promote Jackson, new places to look for business. For example, as we see a growth in the sports market, we will actively pursue those areas of growth. We will continue our grant program to support our attractions and events that bring in millions of tourists a year to Jackson. We look to the future to support in any way we can the development of new projects, like the convention center hotel, Farish Street, Iron Horse grill, etc., that would bring tourism dollars to the city.


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