Craig Hitt is no stranger to Meridian. Born and raised in Lauderdale County, he managed a successful logging business, served on the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors and most recently worked with the Kemper County Economic Development Authority.
Now, Hitt takes on a new challenge as the new Director of Community Development for the City of Meridian.
Community development plays a big role at Meridian. In addition to managing the parking lot, Union Station, and other properties, the department manages building inspections and code enforcement, works with event organizers on permits and public safety, and coordinates with companies that looking to open or expand in the Meridian area.
Hit said the department has a lot of moving parts and getting up to speed was one of his primary goals.
“In all honesty, I’m still learning some of that,” he said last week. “There’s a lot going on in this department.”
Community development requires a lot of cooperation and coordination with other city departments, Hitt said. Events require coordination with law enforcement for security, parks and recreation for supplies, public works for utilities, and communication with administration to ensure everyone is on the same wavelength.
“There has to be a lot of coordination across the city every time we have an event,” he said.
But events are only a small part of what community development does. As part of his vision, which is shared by the administration, Hitt said one of his department’s main goals will be to clean up downtown Meridian and promote the growth of businesses and residents.
“You always want to grow your city,” he said. “I believe this administration is focused on small businesses, especially downtown, and then on our other business sections of the city to facilitate the growth of new businesses as much as possible, as well as the expansion of existing businesses. ”
With today’s technology putting a library of information at the click of a button, Hitt said business owners can know a lot about a city before they even start talking about community development. This advantage makes it even more important for the city to have a clean and welcoming community to present to potential new businesses.
“They do their homework, and with the technology we have today, they can find out just about anything they want to know,” he said. “So I think it’s important for us to be presentable up front so that when someone starts looking they see a well-maintained community and people who are excited about what’s going on in their community and show a door open to new opportunities.”
Hit said Community Development works with landowners to remedy run-down buildings and clean up abandoned properties. The department also stays in touch with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, community organizations, and historic preservation groups to bring additional resources and voices to the table.
The initial focus of the cleanup is downtown, Hitt said, but the goal is to expand the effort to other areas of the city to address issues and create citywide opportunities. .
As he settles into his new role, Hitt said he encourages residents to reach out to his department to share their thoughts and ideas on growing the city of Meridian.
“We are here to serve the people of the city,” he said. “We have excellent staff who know very well what they do and what needs to be done. So I encourage people to contact us and let us work with them to get an idea or look to grow the community.