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April 23, 2024

The Chamber’s 75th Year

Key objectives for 2023 have been outlined and are in the works

By Amile Wilson

The Bolivar Bullet

Founded in 1948, the Cleveland Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 75th Anniversary this year. Serving as the umbrella organization for tourism and Main Street as well as traditional Chamber of Commerce and economic development duties means they have quite a bit on their plate. 

Not only has tourism and economic development increased year-over-year, many numbers are higher even compared to pre-COVID statistics.

Cleveland’s recent 50 Nights of Lights had a 247 percent increase in attendance year-over-year. The winter- wonderland featuring over 1,000,000 lights drew both locals and tourists. To downtown to see the extravagant displays.

The Chamber handles both the city and county and serves as home for the entire local economic development offices. This helps unify efforts but also means that the Chamber has a lot on its plate.  

This year, the Chamber has outlined key objectives for each of their program areas. 

Chamber of Commerce 

Provide programming and resources to members

Grow membership 

Increase the volunteer base to help with events 

Economic Development

Seek funding sources and make improvements to industrial sites in Bolivar County

Market available industrial sites 

Support existing businesses and industry through programming and resources 

Economic and Chamber activities to support these goals include employee retention workshops, job fairs, professional development and other group events.

In 2022 Cleveland became “Certified Retirement Community” under the Welcome Home Mississippi program. Chamber efforts will focus on promoting and recruiting based on that designation.  

Cleveland Retirement Community 

Promote the retirement designation to the community and region

Work with the state-wide Welcome Home Mississippi to inform them of opportunities in Cleveland

Promote and market the designation through Delta State University alumni outlets 

Shopping local gives a double service to the community. First by supporting local businesses, and second by keeping sales tax dollars local. The Cleveland Main Street office is focused on developing downtown business activity.

Team Cleveland Main Street 

Increase sales tax and retail revenues through events and promotions downtown

Market downtown and surrounding anchor streets as a location for new business

Implement plans and seek additional funding to improve public amenities

Tourism is about both bringing people in and about providing activity for local residents.

Tourism Commission 

Promote attractions dealing with outdoor recreation, civil rights, and new events.

Promote Cleveland as a destination for meetings and conferences.

Develop a stronger relationship with other Delta communities to promote the region as a whole.

Tourism numbers are already up 10% from last year and new initiatives – especially ones that focus on outdoor recreation are expected to drive that number up even more.

“This coming year we’ll be expanding a lot into developing not only Cleveland but Bolivar County,” said Sean Johnson, Director of Tourism. “There’s a lot of history and a lot of culture and recreation here. We have some initiatives to nudge our way more into the blues conversation especially in international travel.”

Johnson has only been in the Cleveland area for about a year, moving here from the Eastern side of the state.

“Seeing Bolivar County through fresh eyes there are things that are very exciting,” he said.

“Part of the allure of Cleveland is its location as a base camp for exploration of the greater Delta,” he said. “We have a major goal of adding to the itinerary of those travelers things that are actually in Cleveland.”

To achieve these goals, tourism will be focusing on marketing for bus tours and group tours. The goal is not only getting more to come to the area, but to encourage those who already do to spend more time in Cleveland and book more overnight stays locally.

One major new initiative will be a new website. DiscoverBolivarCounty.com has been purchased and will go live later this year focused on Civil Rights and Outdoor recreation. 

Increased tourism is expected to increase economic indicators across multiple business sectors.