Vicksburg tourism officials and residents are responding to negative publicity the city has received lately. From the alleged conduct of the city's mayor to the recent murder of a teenager, they say it's time to shine a good light on the city they love.
Billy Johns is the new kid on the block.
"I came up, checked it out, spent a week up here, and it took me about three days before I fell in love with the downtown area," says Johns.
He doesn't let the negative headlines bother him. In fact, this week, he's signing a lease to open a new business in Vicksburg's Historic District.
"Figured I'd open up a coffee shop," he says. "Place to sit down and relax, watch the news, watch a movie, talk business, talk politics, talk about your kids, whatever. But at the same time, I'll offer concierge level computer services out of the back."
Johns is exactly the kind of businessman Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce and tourism officials are looking for: fresh ideas, new money, good headlines.
"In the past two years alone, there's been $35 million in public and private investment in this downtown area where we're standing now," says Bill Seratt, the Executive Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "So things are happening in Vicksburg. Very good things are happening."
Margaret Gilmer is the GM of the Outlets at Vicksburg, a popular shopping destination since 1995.
"It's a good place to live, it's a good place to visit, it's a good place to do business," she says.
Noticeably absent from Wednesday's news conference was Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield. We talked with him over the phone after the event. He declined an on-camera interview but did tell us he applauds the effort to shine a good light on his city. He says more attention needs to be paid to the good things Vicksburg has to offer.
Gilmer is surprised the mayor didn't attend Wednesday's news conference to promote his city.
"I am. I looked around, and I am surprised he's not here today. He's generally in a crowd that gathers, and so I am a little surprised," she says. "I'm a firm believer that people are innocent until otherwise proven, and so it's unfortunate. I would much rather not have that type of publicity."
These Vicksburg residents will work to create better publicity for their great city.
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