Mississippi College

MC and Local Hospital Join as Mainstreet

October 31, 2007

Mississippi College and the Central Mississippi Medical Center are leaders of a new team promoting the revitalization of historic downtown Clinton.

Both longtime players in the Clinton community, MC and CMMC are joining forces as a "Bedrock Founding Partners" to offer financial support and sponsorships to projects to ensure success for Olde Towne Clinton. Combined the two entities will contribute a total of $48,000 for the first three years.

The funds in part will be used for such annual events Olde Towne Market, Flicks on the Bricks and The Haunting of Olde Towne.

MC President Lee Royce and Joe Riley, the hospital's CEO, trumpeted their teamwork during a gathering in downtown Clinton Monday morning with local officials and merchants showing their support. With its 450 employees and CMMC, with its 1,100 employees, are already major economic development partners with many of them living, shopping and spending their leisure time in Clinton.

Royce has envisioned Olde Towne Clinton becoming to MC like Oxford and its historic square is to the University of Mississippi, with an array of restaurants, clothing stores and art shops enticing Ole Miss students, alumni, and parents.

Others in Nelson Hall are applauding the new MC-CMMC team approach, including Steve Stanford, MC vice president for administration and government relations.

Stanford, who wears another hat as president of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, said "We are very happy that Mississippi College has made another significant show of support to the revitalization and improvement of the Olde Towne area. This level of support is both an investment and a commitment to the Main Street program."

Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman also embraces the MC and CMMC partnership to help the city. With both serving as catalysts, it should encourage others to "join the effort to revitalize Olde Towne and to bring attention to the historic area of Clinton," she said. The future of Olde Towne and MC "are closely intertwined and it is imperative that the two entities work together for the common good," the Mayor added.

Many who work in Olde Towne Clinton welcome the new "bedrock" partnership to strengthen downtown.

As she prepared chicken and rice soup plus ham, turkey and roast beef sandwiches for hungry customers, Sue Courson, owner of the Gravity Gallery Coffeehouse& Cafe, believes the initiative will help. It can only spark more business traffic for her restaurant on West Leake Street and others nearby. "We'd like to see more things down here," said the Clintonian, whose restaurant in the Potter House stays busy after opening its doors for the breakfast crowd.

Gravity first opened in downtown Clinton about a dozen years ago. Typically it welcomes travelers off the Natchez Trace Parkway and from Clinton's new Visitors Center. MC faculty, staff and students and folks who work downtown - from the Post Office to the Mayor's Office, are also regulars.

Larry Gatewood, an MC graduate and owner of the When Pigs Fly antiques store on West Leake Street, said he's "tickled to death" to hear some of the new initiatives being developed to liven up downtown Clinton. "It seems like Olde Towne was neglected for so long," said the former Jackson Police Department detective. "This should help everybody. I'm interested in anything one can do to bring business here."

Seeing MC and CMMC getting more involved in downtown development is certainly an encouraging sign, said Courson, who hopes other Clinton and Jackson area businesses hop on the bandwagon.

That's expected to happen later this fall and into the new year. Being a Bedrock Founding Partner requires both MC and CMMC to each contribute $10,000 the first year, $8,000 the following year and $6,000 for the third year. As key members of the effort, MC and CMMC will be each giving $5,000 annually in subsequent years.

There are benefits to becoming "bedrock" founders of a revitalized Clinton. MC and CMMC will become chief sponsors of key events in downtown Clinton. Their logos will appear in area publications and a permanent sidewalk flagstone in the Olde Towne district.

The involvement of the Christian university and the growing hospital is a natural fit for their community of 23,763 in Hinds County, Royce and Riley say.

"I'm proud to see MC become one of the Bedrock Founding Partners to work to achieve this significant project in the life of our community," Royce said. "Main Street Clinton is only a few blocks from the MC campus and its enrichment will help everybody in this vibrant city."

The CEO of the Jackson hospital also sees close connections between Clinton and his institution. "Our role in the Partnership is to support one of the closest communities to the hospital," Riley said. It's "a community in which many employees live, send their children to school and take part in civic activities. CMMC has been a part of Clinton's rich history for over 40 years."

And it's a partnership in which the Jackson hospital hopes to be involved with for many years to come.

"We share the vision of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is the revitalization and economic development of the downtown commercial area," Riley said.

The partnership between the 4,600-student MC, with its more than 450 employees, and 473-bed CMMC, is really just a big first step. More big-time players, from businesses along U.S. 80 in Clinton to the capital city are being courted to get involved.

Said Riley: CMMC "is open to working with MC and other Main Street Clinton sponsors in order to make this preservation and economic development project a success."

In late August, leaders of Main Street Clinton launched their inaugural membership drive. So far, "community support has been overwhelming," said Tara Lytal, the organization's manager and an MC graduate. "Central Mississippi Medical Center and Mississippi College clearly have an understanding ow how Main Street Clinton can positively impact quality of life issues in Clinton."

Besides announcing the opportunity become a Bedrock Founding Partner, there are ways that Clinton area enterprises and individuals can sign on as a founding partner. The initial annual fee is $5,000, dropping to $4,000 for the second year and $3,000 the third year and $2,500 in subsequent years. Sponsorship of Clinton events, placement on an e-newsletter and a listing on a permanent sidewalk flagstone in Olde Towne are among other benefits for founding partners.

The program has not been going on for long, Lytal noted. Despite limited funds, Main Street Clinton, with its diverse restaurants, antique shops, Waters Art Gallery and other businesses, is beginning to bloom, and supporters are seeing a return on their investment, she said.

With its beautiful brick streets, Clinton has much to offer just for history buffs. The city of Clinton was incorporated Feb. 12, 1830. That's just four years after MC was founded as Hampstead Academy in 1826, back when the first American railroad was completed in Quincy, Mass. and just a year after the opening of the Erie Canal. In the 21st Century, Clinton is looking back on its history, but on the way to seeing its downtown prosper, with other partners emerging.

Said Stanford: "We anticipate that the University will continue to partner with those seeking to ensure the vitality, improvement and development of the Clinton community."

For more details on Main Street Clinton and other activities and attractions in the City of Clinton go to the city's web site at www.clintonms.org

PHOTO: Joe Riley, CEO of CMMC; Ryan Tracy, Main Street board president; and Dr. Lee Royce, president of Mississippi College.

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