About a year and half ago my dad and stepmom came to Hattiesburg for two weeks to visit my brother and me. It was the first time they had made the trip to Mississippi, and I wanted it to be a good one. And though my parents did not come for any other reason except to see us, I wanted to try to show them around the area and point out some of the highlights of Hattiesburg that I have come to learn and discover in my tenure here. But the truth is that Hattiesburg is not a great place to visit just for the sake of visiting. Sure, we went the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby, The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel and Leatha’s Bar-Be-Que, but otherwise Hattiesburg just did not have a lot to offer in the way of tourist attractions. It was their first real visit to Mississippi and I wanted to show them the charm of living in the Deep South. What I came to realize is that Hattiesburg is a great place to live, even if it is not a great place to visit.
I had always known this about Hattiesburg, buy my parents’ visit made it more apparent. Recently, though, I had an opportunity to point out what a great livable community Hattiesburg really is. Two weeks ago I was asked to give a tour of Hattiesburg to a candidate for a teaching position at USM. The head of the Hiring Committee who asked me to show the candidate around said, “sell them on Hattiesburg; make them want to move here.” With that charge I felt almost at a loss as to what to show this person in only a few hours, especially without knowing anything about the candidate. I did know that everyone likes a good cup of coffee, though, and that would be a good place to start.
I met the candidate (we’ll refer to this person as John) on campus and drove him over to T-Bones Record and Coffee shop for one of their signature Cold Brew coffees. Not only is T-Bones a great place for refreshments and music, it has a great atmosphere that lends itself well to being a local hangout. This also gave me a chance for John to talk about his interests and the interests of his family, where he was from, and what his priorities were in finding a community to call home. This allowed me to help tailor a tour of Hattiesburg that pointed to the things he and his family would be able to appreciate such as a good coffee shop, a walkable neighborhood, a good place to go hear live music, an arts scene, an area with charm, and plenty of places of worship to choose from.
The fact is that Hattiesburg has much to offer. We are a great destination for retirees because of affordable living and a good medical establishment. If you are a young couple with several children and want a good school and a safe neighborhood with a vibrant faith community, we have that. If you are a young professional wanting more of a chill nightlife with good music, food and coffee, we have that. Those are just a few of some very general profiles of people living in and moving to Hattiesburg, and we are unique in Mississippi, and maybe even in the US, for being more than just a college town, and for having so much to offer to so many diverse interests.