Mayor: Technology updates needed

Published 12:30 am Monday, November 13, 2017


NATCHEZ — “Dated.”

That is the word Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said has come to describe the Natchez Convention Center.

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In fact, he said that perception has cost the city a number of conventions.

“I’ve been informed by some conventions that we have not captured (their business) because we have been labeled as ‘dated.’” Grennell said.

But over the course of the next year, Grennell hopes to alter that perception.

In today’s tech-centric environment, Grennell said getting the city up to par technologically is essential, and the convention center is first on his list.

“I can see LED screens being placed strategically in the hallways, in the vestibule of the main entrance that can advertise and promote the city,” Grennell said. “And it can also inform convention-goers on ‘here’s your itinerary for today.’”

Grennell sees business-owners appearing on these screens with beaming faces, telling convention visitors all that the city has to offer. This way, he said, those at conventions will know which restaurant to visit or and ideal spot for shopping.

And if businesses choose to advertise using these means, he said the monitors could end up partially paying for themselves.

“That advertisement money can be used to underwrite the technology that we’re putting in place,” Grennell said.

Grennell also envisions a paperless experience for convention attendees.

He wants a Natchez Convention Center app, on which visitors can gain entry to the convention through an e-ticket, pull up their itinerary, and provide feedback on their experience, all seamlessly and without the clutter of carrying around paper documents.

And Grennell said these things are attainable as short-term goals.

“I can see this happening within a year’s time,” he said.

The convention center is currently under a financial review and the management contract could soon be opened for bidding, but whichever company ends up managing the convention center, Grennell said they had better be willing to become more tech-friendly.

“I want to see my vision implemented,” Grennell said.

The mayor said he sees areas in both the private and public sector where technology can enhance the City of Natchez.

For an example of the former, Grennell pointed to the role of technology in the apprehension of the many suspects involved in the recent Oct. 1 shooting spree.

“What helped apprehend these individuals was technology,” Grennell said. “And it wasn’t publicly owned technology; it was private. It was surveillance systems associated with their businesses or their homes.”

Grennell said the price of these systems has dropped tremendously over the years, saying they are now an affordable and affective way to help deter crime and aide law enforcement.

But for the city, Grennell envisions a more tech-friendly Natchez, one capable of integrating smartphones to establish a dialogue with its citizens.

Grennell said the city needs a both a functional, mobile-friendly website and a smartphone application that allows residents to communicate directly with the city about a host of issues.

One scenario Grennell envisions this method becoming useful is when city goers notice aspects of the city that require repairs.

“The citizens (should) be able to go to a website (or app) and say, ‘I’ve got some potholes on my street,’” he said. “That can be clicked immediately, Public Works get it, and dispatch somebody to go out there.”

An app could also, he said, help visitors navigate the city, inform them about retail spots, or allow them to purchase a seat with Natchez Transit, just to name a few ideas.

These concepts just scratch the surface, as Grennell hopes Natchez could soon become a model city on how to successfully integrate technology.

But he said help must come from other city officials as well.

“It’s going to take more brains than just mine,” Grennell said. “We have got to get ourselves where we need to be in respect to technology.”