In recent months, Ackerman and Choctaw County residents have seen some very positive changes along Ackerman’s Main St. in the way of a beautification project. The project was set in motion when Choctaw County became a part of the Aspire Mississippi program in 2018.
Aspire Mississippi is an application-based, results-oriented, data-driven leadership initiative. Designed to build greater capacity in Mississippi counties, it engages local stakeholders in relevant training and community-based projects, resulting in significant and sustainable community and economic development outcomes. Aspire Mississippi falls under the umbrella of the Mississippi Development Authority.
Choctaw County was one of five counties across the state selected to participate in the program began in April 2018 and lasted for one year. Team members are: Deanie Graves (unofficial team leader and spokesperson), Ackerman Mayor Tim Cutts, Juli Hughes, Mitzi Lawrence, Juliette Ashford, Donna McKay, Amanda McBride, Glen Blaine and Lara Bowman. The team received no funding for their project, and the labor was done mostly by volunteers.
The team attended meetings in other counties, and learned a great deal from networking with others. They were encouraged to look at Ackerman, not as someone who lives there, but as a visitor to help see changes that needed to be made.
The beautification efforts along Main St. were one of the biggest projects with Phase I and Phase II being funded by the Town of Ackerman. This involved landscaping around the pavilion and maintaining planters along the street and other landscaping work, as well.
The team also created a new theme and logo, Track On Over to Ackerman, and made bags which have been handed out at the Sturgis Bike Rally, and other events in the area. The bags included a county map, restaurant guide, city and county information, and more, in an effort to attract more visitors to Ackerman.
The rationale for the project was to:
• Increase sales tax in the Town of Ackerman.
• Make Ackerman a more attractive place to eat, live and play.
• Market the amenities and benefits of Ackerman to visitors who are already in the region.
Ackerman has seen a sales tax increase of 1.5% for fiscal year 2019. And even though the project officially ended in April of this year, the team intends to stay together and continue their efforts. Also, successful completion of the project offers the possibility of receiving $5K in funding from the Mississippi Development Authority.