The turn of the century not only brought new industry to the Tupelo/Lee County area, but new a new face to the helm of CDF. On August 21, 2000, David Rumbarger replaced Harry A. Martin as President and Chief Executive Officer of CDF.
In 2000, the Future Focus capital campaign was initiated to diversify and strengthen Tupelo/Lee County for the future. The campaign proved successful, enabling the creation of 6,855 new jobs over a five year period and bringing $130 million of new commercial and industrial construction to the area. Following the success of the first campaign, Future Focus 2010 was adopted in 2005 to further diversify the county’s economy. Over $ 2.6 million was pledged by area businesses during the first campaign, with $2.8 million pledged during the latter.
Education, always at the forefront of CDF’s program of work, was making new strides in Tupelo/Lee County with the opening of the Advanced Education Center in Tupelo in 2000. This facility is shared by the University of Mississippi, Itawamba Community College, and the Mississippi University for Women. The center offers a myriad of diverse programs, from continuing education for manufacturing employees to nursing, health, education, and management information courses.
A pivotal moment in Tupelo/Lee County’s history occurred in 2001 when the Pontotoc, Union, Lee Alliance was created, with approval from the Mississippi Development Authority. In 2003, the PUL Alliance garnered $250,000 from the State of Mississippi for an engineering study to a 1,000 acre regional “supersite” for industrial development, the first of its kind in the state. The site, in Blue Springs, MS, was certified by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2005 and later that year The Wellspring Project was introduced to the automotive industry at the Automotive World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Through the efforts of CDF, Governor Haley Barbour, Mississippi Development Authority, Three Rivers Planning & Development District, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, Governor Barbour announced on February 27, 2007 that Toyota Motor Company would build its eighth North American automotive assembly plant at the Wellspring Project site in Blue Springs, MS, representing a $1.3 billion investment and 2,000 initial jobs. The plant would produce the Toyota Corolla, the world’s most popular vehicle. Toyota Auto Body, a tier-one supplier to Toyota, announced on September 25, 2007, that it would build its first North American headquarters in the Harry A. Martin North Lee Industrial Complex near Baldwyn, MS, under the auspices of Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi.
In 2002, a development strategy was established for a Lee County business incubator. This strategy would lead to the building of the Renasant Center for IDEAs, Tupelo/Lee County’s Regional Business Incubator that opened in 2006. The center for entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes sits on 2.5 acres on the corner of East Main Street and Elizabeth Street in the downtown Fairpark District. Also this year, CDF and CREATE Foundation initiated the Community Leadership Institute, a two-year program designed to enhance community leadership development and personal and professional growth. The two-year program consists of one year of training and one year of community re-investment. The program was named the Jim Ingram Community Leadership Institute in 2007 in honor of the former CDF chairman and community leader.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors adopted the Lee County Plus Plan in 2003, a four-pillar economic development plan to phase out Freeport inventory taxes and offer additional incentives to new and expanding industries. The Plan’s four major components included real and personal property tax exemptions, international trade zone, Freeport warehousing inventory tax exemption, and capital advancement incentive.
2004 was a busy year for CDF. The Tupelo Story Conference was held, with 142 participants representing twelve different states. Lee County joined the Vicksburg/Jackson Foreign Trade Zone creating the Greater Mississippi Foreign Trade Zone, designating over 5,000 acres and 100 industries. FTZ designation was of great importance to local industries as it provides special customs procedures to U.S. plants engaged in international trade-related activities.
During this decade such industries as Thysenkrupp Fabco (Martinrea Fabco), Foamade Industries, Yellowstone Furniture Manufacturing, Block Corporation, Fairfield Processing, Davis International, Okin, Circadence, General Atomics, Sleep Innovations, and National Electronics Warranty Customer Service Companies, located to the Tupelo/Lee County area.
In 2007, CDF was named one of the Top Economic Development Groups in the United States by Site Selection Magazine. The Tupelo/Lee County area was also recognized for the location of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi to the Wellspring Project site in Blue Springs, MS, as one of Site Selection’s Top Deals of 2007.
A theme throughout CDF’s 60 years of service is a staunch commitment to education for all people in Tupelo/Lee County. In August 2008, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and CREATE Foundation made a college education available for every high school graduate, over 650 students, in Lee County, with the establishment of the Lee County/Marchbanks Helping Hand Tuition Guarantee Program. Beginning with the Class of 2009, residents of Lee County graduating from Baldwyn, Mooreville, Nettleton, Shannon, Saltillo, Tupelo, and other Lee County high school graduates, will receive two full years of tuition free assistance to Itawamba Community College.
The Community Development Foundation is proud of its rich history of service to Tupelo /Lee County, but we all look to the future as we move onward and upward in our quest to make Tupelo/Lee County an even stronger player in the global marketplace and an even greater place for all of us to call home.