Jenkins’ focus good fit for promoting Chamber, Natchez
Published 12:03 pm Saturday, September 24, 2022
Lyn Fortenberry Jenkins may not consider herself a morning person, but she’s doing her best to fake it.
Jenkins, president and CEO of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, updated members of the Natchez Kiwanis Club this week on the work of the Chamber.
“We’re working with the Downtown Natchez Alliance and have brought back the downtown merchants’ meetings,” she said. “The meeting we had at 8 a.m. Wednesday was packed … and we’re meeting again next Wednesday … at 8 a.m.!”
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With a tongue-in-cheek sigh, Jenkins admitted the early morning meeting call is a challenge for her “but it’s when we need to meet for our businesses, many of whom open at 9 or 10 in the morning.”
Jenkins, a sixth-generation Natchezian, has more than 18 years of event planning and tourism experience. She took over leadership of the Chamber in June, having worked for more than 15 years as a volunteer and board member with the organization. “It looks different on this side,” she said with a laugh.
Known for her high energy and ability to get things done, Jenkins has taken that same focus to the Chamber. An active program of work includes education partnerships with local schools – “people just don’t realize how involved the Chamber is with the schools”– that promotes Natchez Early College and the Youth Leadership Program, which this year will include 27 high school juniors to spend a year learning about the community and about leadership; partnerships to support county-wide workforce development efforts, that in turn help produce skilled employees for local business and industry needs; work with Visit Natchez to create discount programs for local merchants; member educational opportunities, such as legislative forums; and programs that promote and grow local business.
“We’re the voice of business for Natchez,” she said.
Of course, with a successful career as an event planner, Jenkins is quickly putting those skills to work. Multiple ribbon cuttings are on tap for new members within the next month, including a progressive ribbon cutting on Oct. 9 that will move from Restore Health and Wellness to The Shops at Kress to Frankie’s on Main for a much-anticipated opportunity to experience one of Natchez’s newest restaurants.
“We’re doing a new event this year and are hosting a kids’ color run … the same day as our tree lighting in Downtown Natchez,” she said.
And, in an ambitious venture, Jenkins revealed that the Chamber will bring back the popular Food and Wine Festival. “We’ve already selected our charity of choice this year – the Stewpot,” she said. “We haven’t had this since 2018, but we will follow the same format with a Friday night tasting on the bluff and Saturday events including mixology classes, wine and cheese classes, bocce ball tournaments at Natchez Brewing and dinner at the (historic) houses.”
The event, which will be held the weekend of July 28, 2023, is expected to bring more than 1,500 people to Natchez.
And that’s the key to this event and much of the Chamber’s work: bringing people to Natchez. With an economy that relies on tourism as its primary driver, creating events that bring people to town – people who in turn spend money in hotels, at retailers, in restaurants – is a focus that benefits us all.
Jenkins is committed to that work, even if it means showing up with a smile for those 8 a.m. meetings. “And the Friday Forums at 8 a.m., we’ll be doing those every other Friday now,” she told the Kiwanis members with a smile. “Because, well, it’s 8 a.m. on Friday.”
Stacy Graning is Regional Editor for BNI-Inland Group and The Democrat. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.