Focusing on the mission of relationships and partnerships, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership is rebranding to more effectively communicate its purpose of growing businesses and fostering connections between members. With a reputation as a great college town, top incentives for business growth and strong community programs, Starkville attracts the new and the next. The partnership’s rebranding is just another indication of the city’s continued prosperity.
“For 16 years we have been known as the Greater Starkville Development Partnership,” says Jennifer Prather, interim CEO. “While that will remain the official name, we wanted to really come up with a ‘brand’ that focused on our mission.”
One of the partnership’s missions is to have “an aggressive and diversified approach for business growth and job creation.”
Helping to achieve these goals, the partnership relies on the business relationships throughout the community.
“We are an organization that accomplishes our goals through relationships,” Prather said. “We seek out partners within our community to achieve success.”
With these relationships in mind, Prather said the name that “stuck” was “the partnership.”
“Our tagline involves what the staff does every day and that is ‘Cultivating Community,’” she said.
Although the Partnership has new branding, through the cohesive work of the Chamber, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Main Street Association and Economic Development Authority, its focus continues to remain the same.
“While members receive many individual benefits in joining the partnership, one of the overall goals is to inform them of how their investment helps the community,” Prather said. “We use member resources to invest in the community and promote Starkville as a great tourist town, college town and retirement community.”
Prather said the Southeastern Conference provides many opportunities to engage the local community and visitors.
“We build entire weekends around men’s and women’s sporting events,” she said. “We are now focusing on activities available on non-sport weekends. It might be attending a festival, visiting the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, participating in the summer concert series or just enjoying the many culinary options the city has to offer.”
The partnership’s rebranding has three main areas of focus: quality of life, education and entrepreneurship. Each of those has specific task forces to lead the partnership’s rebranding in these areas.
Quality of life
Quality of life is a top priority to any city, however, Starkville boasts a plethora of lifestyle opportunities and the partnership is working to expand on an already robust area. The city is set to provide a fun and unique atmosphere for the whole family. With Mississippi State University in town, there is an abundance of places to see, events to attend and activities in the community to enjoy. These opportunities expand from SEC sporting events, participatory sports, outdoor recreation, tours, rodeos, historical sites and buildings and festivals to concerts, art galleries and museums – and, of course, a wide range of shopping and dining options.
A new summer series will take place at Fire Station Park. The Downtown at Sundown is a concert series that takes place the third Thursday of each month from May through July. Admission is free, and food and drink vendors will be on site.
In keeping with the mission of “involvement in progressive education and other community initiatives,” the education task force is working to build on an already excellent educational foundation in the area.
“The aim of the education task force is to establish Starkville and Oktibbeha County as a regional leader in education,” said Paul Luckett, chair of the education task force. “And, in line with the ethos of the partnership at large, we seek to bring together and foster cooperation between all of our educational institutions with the aim of making our community an education destination.”
Luckett said the partnership’s signature event focusing on education as well as entrepreneurship has been the International Paper Innovation Challenge.
“This cooperative between International Paper, Mississippi State University E-Center and the partnership is an entrepreneurship contest where middle school and high school students pitch a business concept before a ‘shark tank’ for a chance to win cash and scholarships to MSU’s iCreate Entrepreneurship Camp during the summer,” Luckett said. “Thanks to cooperation across the community, we crushed our participant goal for the first year and had over 70 applicants from public, private and home school students combined.”
In addition, the education task force has partnered with the Starkville Rotary Club to launch a Young Leaders Program beginning in August 2018, Prather said. Students were selected from throughout the county for this year-long program.
“We understand that the needs of students and families are unique, so the education task force has developed an ‘e-Corner’ available in our newsletter and on our website that highlights the many and varying opportunities available at our area schools,” Luckett said.
Next on the agenda for the task force is a focus on work-based learning.
“We plan to work intimately with industry on integrative or work-based learning in our schools so that we can develop, recruit and retain the next generation workforce,” Luckett said.
The objectives of the task force include establishing downtown incubator space, establishing a culture of fostering local entrepreneurship and wealth building, enhancing relationships with Mississippi State University E-Center and exploring culinary entrepreneurial opportunities.
“To date we have set aside office space in the Partnership building for young start ups,” said Briar Jones, chairperson of the entrepreneurship task force. “This process is now in its second year. The start ups are identified through the MSU E-Center.”
In November 2017, the partnership and the Mississippi State University Entrepreneurship Center celebrated the development and opening of the “Downtown E Center” located at 200 E. Main St.
“This dedicated conference space in the Citizens Bank Conference room serves as an additional community bridge for entrepreneurship,” Jones said.
The energy in Starkville is charged and generating the energy of the partnership.
“It is really an exciting time to be living here,” Prather said. “Business development and new construction are booming. There is an energy that is fun to be a part of.”