By John Howell, The Panolian
Describing the Panola Partnership’s role in Panola County and its in-house partnership with the Batesville Main Street Program is a complex proposal, but, in the next few weeks we will focus on its efforts to continue to improve the business climate and quality of life in Panola County. In addition, we will focus on a few member businesses who have utilized the tools provided by the Panola Partnership and their community involvement efforts.
Today, we will explore some of the multitude of ways the Partnership and Main Street work to serve Panola County and its communities, members and non-members alike, and why forming “partnerships” is what these organizations are all about.
For instance, an existing or new retail business may contact the Partnership for economic and demographic data that would help in decision making about location, expansion and the support services which are offered through membership.
Another example may be an industry seeking a new location might see it as an industrial recruitment agency with an extensive inventory list of suitable land available in the county’s industrial parks.
Also, native Panolians who retire after long careers in distant, cold-climate states, see the Partnership as their first contact when retirement plans include a long-dreamed-about return home as the Partnership also serves as the community Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of organizations are separated,” Panola Partnership Chief Executive Officer Sonny Simmons said,
“with separate chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and Main Street offices. “We do it all.” Economic Development Assistant Meredith Fleming and Batesville Main Street Manager Colleen Clark complete the professional team for the two organizations.
The Partnership provides assistance to find the correct guidance resources, needed inventory or services to competitively position start-up, existing and recruited businesses locating to Panola County within all local, regional and national markets. Their goal is to be a resource for local businesses, to help local businesses be successful and to provide valuable information to potential customers about their member businesses that will lead to increased sales and profits.
Resources include information about the University of Mississippi Small Business Development Center where a would-be entrepreneur might get “nuts and bolts” information on how to start a business and the Mississippi Development Authority’s (MDA) entrepreneurial division. “They’ll guide them through every step of the process for starting a business,” Simmons said.
Partnership personnel frequently guide people to other entities for information about requirements to do business in Panola County and its towns such as where a small business owner or a builder can learn about how to get a project properly permitted, about required licenses to practice in the area, and available utility services.
“It’s much more than annual fees and awards banquets,” Partnership member Angela Clanton said.
While serving as the local Chamber of Commerce and county business directory, the Panola Partnership and Batesville Main Street Program provide members with referral privileges. The 2015 Warner Brothers Polar Express Train Ride was an opportunity to recommend local businesses so their efforts for a successful business venture could be possible by referring local businesses and individuals available to serve their needs while in our community.
This successful business member referral service has led to spin-off businesses from both the Polar Express Train Ride and the United Kennel Club’s Winter Classic Show and Hunt which this, its fourth year in Batesville at the Civic Center, drew the largest participation of any UKC event nationwide.
Though neither the Partnership nor Main Street is funded or structured as a tourism bureau per se, their support role through referral services of capable local businesses to serve any need is paving the way to greater tourism opportunities for Panola County.
The Partnership is assisted by the Ambassadors, an organization of 15 active volunteer members serving as the public relations booster and goodwill organization dedicated to a better community by serving as a liaison between the Partnership and its members. Always conspicuous in their red blazers, the Ambassadors represent the Partnership at grand openings and other public occasions where their hospitality is unequaled.
Recently, the Partnership’s 19th annual banquet in March gave members and guests opportunities to network with new and old friends come to the county. Leading up to the annual banquet, the Partnership coordinated the selection of the county’s Miss Hospitality.
The Ambassadors are ever present at networking opportunities provided to Partnership members. Networking opportunities, such as the Panola Partnership Fall Forum, often are also parts of membership continuing education about current social and government issues which may affect their businesses. Members aid one another and often form secondary business partnerships to the organization itself.
Members are concerned about the future of Panola County, and the YPP (Young Professionals of Panola) has been organized to allow the community’s young adults to develop priorities they feel important to the county’s future. Members are active in local civic groups and give of their time and resources in support of vibrant communities.
As events support the local retail market, Batesville Main Street relies on sponsorships and volunteer time from members, the Panola Partnership, and, frequently, the City of Batesville. Events include the annual SpringFest in May, Scare on the Square in October, the Holiday Open House in November, and Square Market farmers’ market June through October.
Next Friday, April 15 edition, will include a feature on ILLUSvis Design and Visual Arts, a Panola business that has taken advantage of membership benefits to expand and make connections in the community through service. Friday, April 22 edition, will feature L3 Media, and the Friday, April 29 edition, will focus on industry recruitment, retention and expansion to conclude this series exploring the Panola Partnership and Batesville Main Street Program.
Visit the Panola Partnership and Batesville Main Street Program at 150 A Public Square in Batesville, MS, or visit panolacounty.com and batesvillemainstreet.com today to learn more and consider how your business may benefit from becoming and member of the Panola Partnership. Also, please consider becoming a volunteer and aiding our communities to be their best.