Rick Taylor Received Hub Award
Rick Taylor was honored with the Hub Award during a gala dinner and program Tuesday at Lake Terrace Convention Center for his contributions to the community, commitment to excellence and dedication to public service.
The initial event evoked awareness that Hattiesburg has the distinction of having many outstanding citizens whose achievements and contributions should be recognized and that it would be appropriate and desirable to honor such person or persons each year.
Richard “Rick” Taylor is the executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission and the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission, and operates a convention center, a performing arts theater, two museums, a visitors’ center and a zoo. In addition, he oversees operations of VisitHattiesburg which leads Hattiesburg’s $268 million tourism industry. He began his 28-year career in the tourism industry with a five-year stint in tourism development in the British, Dutch and French West Indies before returning home to Hattiesburg in 1993.
His work to increase local tourism began with a campaign to bring Olympic teams to Hattiesburg prior to the 1996 Atlanta Games. The program, in partnership with Southern Miss and a wide range of community volunteers, resulted in the hosting of three Olympic teams (Slovakia, Malawi and Kenya) in the months leading up to the Olympics. In addition to visitors from across the state, worldwide publicity from Hattiesburg’s efforts garnered the nation’s top public relations honor, the Edward L. Bernays Award, in 1997. The was the first time in the 41-year history of the award for a tourism agency to receive the top honor.
The 1990s culminated with the opening of the Lake Terrace Convention Center in July 1998. A statewide favorite, the convention center, now in its 18th year, continues to be an industry leader in the Southeast United States and has been recognized 11 times as “Best of the Best” Meeting Facility by ConventionSouth magazine.
The 2000s were a time of significant tourism infrastructure development, beginning with the $4 million renovation of the historic Saenger Theater. The theater now serves as a performing arts venue for regional theater, as well as hosting notables Aaron Lewis, The Pointer Sisters, Madeleine Albright, Charley Pride, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Robert Gates, among others.
In 2004, the Convention Commission and the Tourism Commission partnered to construct and operate the Hattiesburg Visitors Center at the U.S. 49/Interstate 59 interchange. This facility serves as a gateway for visitors to Hattiesburg and provides a one-stop location for restaurant, shopping, attractions and hotel information. In this same year, the VisitHattiesburg was recognized, along with Las Vegas, for the best visitor brand identity campaign worldwide by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association, International.
2009 saw the completion of a $2 million renovation of the Historic USO Club and the installation of the African American Military History Museum. The museum is the only remaining building of its type left from World War II and has been recognized nationally and regularly hosts academic and military scholars, as well as school groups and visitors. That year also marked the beginning of the historic re-development of the Eureka School into a museum, which is now in its final phase.
In 2010, the commissions began to operate the Hattiesburg Zoo under an agreement with Hattiesburg. Significant operational and infrastructural developments ensued including a splash park, quarantine and animal hospital, petting zoo, concession stand, high ropes adventure course and new animal habitats, rapidly expanding the zoo’s attendance and drawing visitors from outside the Pine Belt and the state.
Taylor is a strong believer that unique and compelling experiences create customers for life, and he implements this concept at each facility he operates. He is an advocate for motivated professionals to incorporate quality and creativity into every aspect of their career and responsibilities.
Taylor is a recipient of the 2012 Governor’s Award for Tourism Achievement, 2009 USM Margaret McCarthy Award for Tourism Partner of the Year, winner of the international Edward L. Bernays Tourism Public Relations Award, and a 2006 inductee into the Mississippi Tourism Hall of Fame. He is a past president of the Mississippi Tourism Association and sits on the advisory board of USM’s Department of Casino, Hospitality and Tourism Management.
In September, Taylor received the Beacon Leadership Award from the Southeast Tourism Society, which represents 12 Southern states. The Beacon Award criteria include accomplishments, innovation, performance, integrity, and respect in recognizing the individual who best exemplifies outstanding leadership in the pursuit of excellence and who has significantly advanced the tourism industry over many years.
Taylor has a master’s degree in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a graduate of the Public Assembly Facility Management School in Dallas. He and his wife, Vicki, have two sons, Skye and Archer.