Christy Burns remains president and CEO of one of the largest industries in Corinth and Alcorn County.
She can almost single-handedly lower tax bases, grow jobs, stimulate business in restaurants and motels, and put her hometown community on the statewide and national economic development map.
Her efforts can not only promote Corinth as a place to visit, spend the night, dine out and enjoy its shopping experiences and historic attractions, but her sales job could mean a family relocating to Corinth or a retired couple moving to Alcorn County to live the rest of their productive retirement years.
Christy Burns’ hardest assignment? She answers to the people – the taxpaying citizens – and she is governed by and answers to a board of volunteers who themselves are appointed by the City of Corinth and Alcorn County governments.
Simply put, the job description of the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “tourism director” is complex, often misunderstood, and according to those who work with Burns, often taken for granted.
Burns was hired as tourism director in April 2013. Her background was customer service and accounting with Mississippi Polymers, a local industry.
She was also a downtown business owner and manager with Waldron Street Market, where she became active with both The Alliance and Main Street Corinth.
“I was on the board when Christy was hired,” said tourism board member Danny Timmons, who now serves as board president. “She had some tough competition. Her outgoing personality is what put her over the top with me.”
Now almost eight years later, Timmons has no regrets about the decision.
“Christy has not disappointed in the performance of her duties,” said the tourism board member president. “She is smart, diligent in her work and she works well with others. She has proven over and over again that we made the right choice.”
Laura Albright was appointed to the tourism board four months before Burns was hired.
Albright said she knew about the tourism director’s “strong work ethic and strong ties to the community.”
“I was delighted that she was the new director,” added the board member, who now serves as vice-president.
“Christy and the board had a steep learning curve to tackle eight years ago,” she said. “She taught herself, enrolled in marketing college, and began to explore ways in which Corinth could be better presented.”
Albright cited Burns’ efforts to network across the state and her service to other boards in the tourism industry.
“She is focused, driven and relentless in her pursuit to market Corinth,” she added. “She is all about Corinth and we are proud to have her as director.”
Burns sat down in her office inside the former Railway Express Agency (REA) building which today serves as the tourism office for an interview with the Daily Corinthian.
Nestled next to the CARE Garden and Crossroads Museum and Historic Depot off Fillmore Street, the sound of passing trains near the historic railroad crossing sometimes muffles the sound of conversation.
“Tourism is a huge industry for the state and Corinth,” said Burns, a 1990 Kossuth High School graduate, and 1994 Ole Miss graduate, where she earned a B.S. in Business Administration. “Corinth remains a Top 20 state destination. It’s something in which we are very proud.”
“It’s all about getting people to visit and spend the night,” said the tourism director, a graduate of the three-year Tourism Marketing College, where she earned the tourism marketing professional certification through the Southeast Tourism Society.
“That program helped me tremendously,” said Burns. “It gave me a network of people to call, to share thoughts and ideas with, and to learn from.”
Burns said local networking she learned as a business owner continues in her role today.
“When you have a shop next to Borroum’s, you become a tourism ambassador,” she said. “It was a great way to get immersed into the role of tourism. It’s where I first learned how and why people were coming to Corinth.”
The year-long and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented the tourism industry with many challenges, noted the director. “Everything we were doing came to a halt,” she said. “It changed the way you market your community.”
Through regional partnerships across the state and guidance from the Mississippi Tourism Association – where Burns currently serves on the executive board – progress was made to help get the tourism industry through tough times, she said.
“Mississippi is doing better than any other state in the nation in terms of COVID recovery in tourism and travel,” noted Burns. “As travel returns, we will continue to develop ways to market Corinth as a safe place to visit.”
The tourism industry is beginning to talk about setting post-COVID state visitation goals for the next three years, she shared.
“It’s going to be a lot of work, but we plan to be a part of that growth in Corinth,” added Burns, a Corinth resident who has been married to Bobby Burns for almost 28 years. They have two children, 24-year-old J.R. and 19-year-old Sarah Kate.
“Tourism is economic development,” said the tourism director, who also serves on the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area board. “Making Corinth a better place to visit will lead to making Corinth a better place to live and work. All of it together makes the wheel turn.”
Tourism Brand Manager Emily Steen sees Christy Burns as another community asset – and one very genuine.
“I have never met a person with more passion and dedication to her job,” noted Steen, whose role is to help market Corinth. “We talk all the time about reasons to come see Corinth and all we have to offer as a destination. And that’s all very true. But the real reason to visit Corinth is because we have people like Christy.”
Added Steen, “You don’t find that everywhere. And it’s a genuine asset.”