Success in economic development is the goal of every community and it comes from well thought out strategy and purposeful execution. The Community Development Foundation (CDF) has spent the past decade developing infrastructure, land, buildings and people in order to reach success and growth for Tupelo/Lee County.
Area growth is attributed to the major industries that call Tupelo/Lee County home. During the 2010s, local industries Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi, Cooper Tire, General Atomics, Grammer, H.M. Richards, Southern Motion and Toyota, located or expanded to the Tupelo/Lee County area.
These industries help comprise the 135 total projects won during the 2010s generating $930,968,725.70 in total capital investment. By choosing to locate or expand in Tupelo/Lee County, these businesses created 7,347 jobs for local residents. With these additional jobs came $231,299,854.20 of new payroll added to the pockets of Tupelo/Lee County citizens. All of this growth is directly attributed to our available product and people.
Another important project of the 2010s is the creation of Lee County’s newest industrial park, the Hive, which is located on the western side of the county. Planning for the Hive has been underway since 2010, especially as the amount of land in the county’s existing industrial parks has continued to tighten due to locations and expansions of manufacturers in the Northeast Mississippi region. This 500-acre next-generation industrial park will position Lee County to competitively seek advanced technology firms and compete with other communities throughout the Southeast.
CDF not only invests in its large manufacturers, but it also knows the value of developing small businesses and entrepreneurs in our community. The Renasant Center for IDEAs, the Tupelo/Lee County Regional Business Incubator, saw its first full decade of success since its 2006 inception. The Renasant Center has graduated 30 successful businesses which have created over 800 jobs. Currently, there are 30 businesses and 60 jobs housed there today. The Renasant Center continues to partner with the Mississippi Small Business Development Center and others to be a catalyst and hub for small business development and entrepreneurship in our area.
Tupelo/Lee County’s growth would not be sustainable without its people. Developing leaders has been a longstanding tradition in our community dating back to the George McLean days of the mid-1900s. Since 2001, the Jim Ingram Community Leadership Institute has annually developed groups of 25-30 leaders. In the past decade, CDF sought ways to further develop community leaders on a regional scale. CDF believes the ultimate catalyst for growth is the ability to identify, engage and ignite people about their future. The IGNITE Leadership Conference was born from this belief with the first annual conference held in January 2018. Presented by CDF and sponsored by BancorpSouth, IGNITE is a one-day leadership summit each January featuring world-class speakers designed to inspire attendees to lead and create desired change within their organizations and communities with renewed passion and drive.
In keeping with the theme of developing its people, the Careers in Advanced Manufacturing and Technology (CAMT) apprenticeship program for developing new skilled workers continued to grow in the 2010s with over 17 participating companies with 60 students. Lee County and CREATE’s Tuition Guarantee program continues to create a way for all graduating students to go to college at Itawamba Community College with no financial burden. This program has allowed Tupelo and Lee County to continue developing the skills of the community’s people into the new decade.
In 2018, CDF’s newly formed 80-person Leadership Council partnered with Avalanche Consulting to develop long-term strategies for the Tupelo and Lee County region. From these meetings, the key area of focus determined for the next ten years is talent. The ability to be successful in bolstering the region’s talent will require a focus on three major pillars — talent attraction, talent retention and quality of life improvements. CDF’s Leadership Council and staff have started developing strategies to address each of these and will begin implementing them in 2020 and beyond.
During the 2010s, the Tupelo region was named seven times to leading trade magazine, Site Selection’s, list of most active micropolitan areas for new and expanding facilities. Most recently in 2019, Tupelo ranked second in the nation among the 551 micropolitan areas designated by the United States Office of Management and Budget (micropolitan statistical areas are labor markets of 10,000 to 50,000 people centered around an urban cluster which cover at least one county). Site Selection also named Tupelo as “Mississippi’s Micropolitan of the Decade” for finishing inside the top 10 for the seventh year in a row.
Since 1948, the Community Development Foundation has gained a reputation as the standard for community partnerships. We deeply appreciate all of the support and investments in our organization. We recognize the consistent support of Lee County and each of its 9 municipalities that are fertile ground for growth. We look forward to what the next decade holds for Tupelo/Lee County and will do our part in ensuring its prosperity.