City eyes new tourism position

Published 12:09 am Saturday, March 9, 2013

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is considering putting a potential new face in Natchez tourism in Jackson to help market the city.

New Orleans Hotel Consultants President Warren Reuther met with Mayor Butch Brown and four aldermen Friday to discuss renewing the company’s lease with the city to manage the Natchez Convention Center, Natchez Community Center and City Auditorium.

Reuther also pitched the idea of hiring Angela V. Weathersby, formerly events and continuing education coordinator for the Mississippi Nurses Association, as a regional convention and sales manager.

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Weathersby’s job would be to aggressively recruit conventions and meetings that originate in Jackson, Reuther said. She would also develop working relationships with corporate and association meeting planners and maintain high visibility in the planning community.

Reuther said New Orleans has similar convention recruiters in Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

“All the major medical conventions come out of Chicago and the American association of everything else comes out of D.C.,” he said.

That recruitment has paid off for New Orleans, Reuther said, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The New Orleans convention center has expanded four times and is currently 1.5 million square-feet.

The Natchez CVB sends a couple of people once a month or once every other month to Jackson to recruit meetings and conventions to Natchez, Reuther said.

That recruitment would be Weathersby’s full-time job. Her job would also include contacting exhibitors and vendors that come to Natchez with conventions about the opportunity to expand their business to Natchez, which Reuther said could help fill the empty storefronts on Main Street.

Reuther said he has met with Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ, who supports the idea of being able to meet with exhibitors and vendors to help recruit them to Natchez.

Weathersby is a member of Mississippi Society of Association Executives.

“I am affiliated with a lot of the associations there and meeting planners, and I know what they want and what they need and what they expect when they come to a city for a meeting,” she said.

Weathersby previously met with the mayor, Convention Center Director Walter Tipton, Tourism Director Connie Taunton and other tourism employees to discuss her potential position.

Reuther said he asked tourism officials to put their heads together to find someone for the position, and Weathersby was their recommendation.

Weathersby’s salary would be $48,000 annually. The convention center would provide benefits, and the CVB would cover travel expenses.

Weathersby said office space is available in the Southern Administrators Building in Ridgeland for $385 per month, which would be paid by the convention center.

Brown said the city recently waved up to $82,000 variable management fee the CVB paid to the city with the requirement that the money be used to market Natchez. Taunton has said the fee has generally never been more than $40,000 to $60,000.

That money, Brown said, could be used for Weathersby’s salary since it is designated for marketing purposes only.

“Marketing comes in many forms, and this is one of them,” he said after the meeting.