Company's coming. Is Atlantic City ready?

The return of the Miss America Pageant, culminating in the nationally televised crowning on Sept. 15 at Boardwalk Hall, is a major opportunity for Atlantic City.

Which should scare the heck out of everyone in the city. Opportunities are as easy to blow as they are to capitalize on, and that's painfully apparent to anyone with the slightest knowledge of Atlantic City's history. The 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City was a major opportunity for the resort - and it resulted in a barrage of negative publicity that is often cited as the final blow to Atlantic City's reputation in that era. No one wants a repeat of that.

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Alliance have promised the pageant an unprecedented amount of money and other sweeteners for returning to Atlantic City.

We won't quibble with that - at the moment. The CRDA has a study that says the pageant will have an economic impact of $32 million for the city. But the real question - as Richard Perniciaro, the director of the Atlantic Cape Community College Center for Regional and Business Research, has noted - is whether the expense will pay off in positive publicity.

Here's hoping. But even in the best of circumstances, news is hard to manage. Furthermore, these days, mere reality isn't enough. Hopefully, the CRDA and the ACA don't need us to remind them that someone needs to be monitoring and responding to every negative Facebook post and tweet about the city during pageant week, if not always.

Everyone in Atlantic City needs to see the pageant as a really big first date.

The city's shirts need to be pressed and its shoes shined, so to speak. Streets and sidewalks need to be cleaned. Everyone, from jitney drivers to blackjack dealers to housekeeping staff, needs to be on their best behavior. Everyone, from casinos to small businesses to individual city residents, needs to be thinking about making a good impression. A citywide pep rally to stress these points would not be a bad idea.

The Miss America Pageant isn't as big as the Democratic National Convention. But if the city isn't ready for the pageant, the damage could be as big.