Real Story Profile: Nancy Carpenter

November 15, 2012

CCVB, Columbus, MS, Travel

It’s no secret that the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors meetings have been rife with contention, but what most plagues CCVB operations are misperceptions of the agency and its operations, said CCVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter.

“It’s usually during board meetings,” Carpenter said of fighting among board members. “I think a lot of that has improved.

If it’s any indication, our last two board meetings have lasted under 35 minutes,” she added. “We come into the meetings and have a very organized agenda, now, and we take care of business. Of course, it is my desire for the board to work in harmony and I know we can only do things that will be great for the wonderful citizens of Columbus and Lowndes County, if we work together.”

Tennessee Williams and Pilgrimage

Carpenter, who serves as executive director of both the CCVB and the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation, explained that a common misperception centers around the separate identity of the two entities.

“One of the largest misconceptions is about the Tennessee Williams (Welcome Center) home,” she explained. “It was donated to the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The donation had to be made to a non-profit foundation and the CCHF was created for ownership, which really has been a blessing.”

The CCVB allocates some money to the CCHF but it is largely supported through grants.

“A lot of people think the state is responsible for the home and hiring and paying employees,” Carpenter said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The Foundation has its own budget. Employees are paid by the Foundation, not the state.”

The Foundation runs the Welcome Center – which was visited by more than 10,000 people in 2011 — owns a double-decker tour bus, and sponsors various events, including Catfish in the Alley, a fall home tour and Ghosts and Legends.

“Another misunderstanding is how important Pilgrimage is to our city,” Carpenter said of the annual event, which began in 1940, featuring tours of Columbus’ antebellum homes and other activities. “The visitors who attend heritage tours are older, with more disposable income. They will decide at the last minute, ‘we like this place and we’re going to stay a few extra days.’ They’re more likely to stay longer in hotels, eat at local restaurants and shop locally, as well. When you have guests that come from all 50 states and 19 countries, they don’t come for just a day. They come with the intention of spending time here and spending money here, as well.

“Pilgrimage is the only (CCVB) funded event that returns money back to the CVB,” she added, noting last year’s Pilgrimage brought in $1,100 above costs. “The only event that is truly self-sustaining is Pilgrimage.”

Grants

The CCVB recently revised its grant guidelines, stipulating what types of events may receive funds and how much money is allocated.

“There is a misconception about who receives grants and under what basis,” Carpenter said. “What I want to see the grantees do is take this as seed money and then go out and raise (additional) money. If all grantees would do this, I think it would make a big difference.”

Currently, the CCVB budget for grants is $130,000 on quality-of-life events and $163,000 for recreational events, like soccer and fishing tournaments.

“Every event is something that brings families in,” Carpenter said of events at the new Columbus Soccer Complex. “Our involvement, now, will be to assist them with funding for bidding on the tournaments. It’s very, very competitive and we want to make sure we give our new complex a shot.”

Fishing tournaments also bring in big money, she added.

“They eat everywhere,” she said of anglers and their families. “They buy bait; they buy gas. (Tournaments) bring in people throughout the year. And it’s people who are spending money on hotels, restaurants, bait shops and gas stations.”

Carpenter concluded by noting that the CCVB now has branded Columbus as “the city that has it all” and advertising dollars are being spent in a “smarter” fashion, including promoting the area at athletic events in Starkville and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“We are not the CVB of downtown,” she said. “We are the CVB for all of Columbus and Lowndes County. We want to make sure we’re getting the word out.”

Kristin Mamrack is a veteran journalist who covers politics, government, and education. 

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2 Comments on “Real Story Profile: Nancy Carpenter”

  1. charles divel Says:

    She should practice what she preaches.

    Reply

  2. Jane Doe Says:

    That lady–Nancy (and I use the term lady loosely)is the biggest backstabber in Columbus!!!

    Reply

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