In the early 1950’s, as the Rural Community Development Council program was being adopted on a national scale, CDF worked to provide displaced farm workers with jobs in local industries. Industrial employment totaled 1,900 workers and Rockwell opened in Tupelo as a result of $120,000 in incentives. CDF, through its Industrial Committee, began to focus intently on attracting commercial and industrial employers to Tupelo and Lee County. CDF also had a new leader at the helm in Cecil White, who replaced Sam Marshall as Executive Officer.
In 1950, Lee County ranked tenth in manufacturing counties in the state. That same year CDF led a delegation of community leaders to Chicago, Illinois to meet with Morris Futorian, a manufacturer of upholstered furniture, and to learn more about his “radical ideas” involving the mass assembly of furniture. Members of the delegation, led by W.E. McClure and J.M. “Ikey” Savery, rallied the local community to raise $150,000 to bring Futorian to North Mississippi, where he founded Stratford Company. This was the start of the furniture industry in Mississippi and Futorian became known as the “Father of the Furniture Industry.”
On May 1, 1956, Harry A. Martin was named Executive Officer of CDF with one full-time employee, one part-time employee, 250 members, and a budget of $40,000. By 1959, CDF’s budget doubled from $44,000 to $88,000.
In 1959, Lee County ranked fourth in manufacturing counties in the state. Industries including Hoerner Box, Super Sagless, and Pennsylvania Tire located to the area. The Northeast Mississippi Community Relations Association was also created in 1959. CRA was established to promote better employer-employee relations.