TUPELO – When Greg Giachelli got his first job, little did he know that it would be the start of a 41-year career.
Giachelli retired from the Community Development Foundation last January, but he's still been a familiar face at the downtown Tupelo headquarters of the lead economic development agency for Tupelo and Lee County.
But he's finally winding down for good, he said, ready to step away after so many successful decades of dedicated service.
"I think it's very fortunate, and an honor, to work with one organization for so long, especially in the economic development field," he said. "The other thing which makes it unique is that I only worked for two CEOs. It started with Harry Martin in 1980, and he was one of my key mentors. Then in 2000, David Rumbarger came, and I worked with him another 20-plus years. So I've had really good CEOs to work with."
Giachelli has picked up several accolades for his work, both individually and as part of the team at CDF. Most recently, he was recognized by the Mississippi Economic Development Council — the state’s association for economic development and chambers professionals — as an Honorary Life Member.
Giachelli is one of only 57 people to have received the honor, which is given to individuals who have made a lasting impact on the state and communities they served.
“It was a special honor to get to present this award to Greg, someone with whom I got to work together for 12 years and who has been a key mentor in my career as an economic development professional,” said MEDC Board of Directors President Hunter Aycock.
During his 41 years at CDF, Giachelli helped shape and build it into an organization that has been recognized as one of the Top 10 economic development organizations in the United States. He was vice president of economic development when he recently retired.
"For a Delta boy to come to Tupelo ... it's been special," he said.
Giachelli s a Swine Production Specialist and later as Executive Director of the Big Ten Development Association at CDF, where he was tasked with improving the genetics and swine production in a 10-county area in North Mississippi. Early on in his career, he was involved in developing the Rural Community Development Council program and worked on establishing the Port Itawamba along the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway in Fulton.
"I did that probably the first 10 years while I was with CDF," he said. "My role here at CDF has always been about developing relationships and trust with whoever you worked with. That way when somebody need anything whether it was a swine producer or someone in business and industry, you were always the first point of contact. And that's why we were able to work and grow what we did because we developed a loyalty with them. They liked what we did, and they liked being here."
He played a critical role in developing the Tupelo/Lee County region into the most highly concentrated upholstered furniture manufacturing cluster in the United States and was crucial in helping create the Tupelo Furniture Market in 1987.
Giachelli's role at CDF was one of the reasons Tupelo/Lee County has been annually ranked as a top micropolitan market in the U.S. by both Southern Business and Development Magazine and Site Selection Magazine for economic development projects, capital, and job growth. In all, he helped foster over $3.7 billion in new capital investment and over $550 million in new wage creation in the Tupelo/Lee County region that has and will continue to impact Mississippi for generations to come.
Giachelli remembers many long drives and rides across the country to recruit companies to Tupelo and Lee County, and there were a few international visits as well.
"With CDF, things just don't happen; it fills a role, and being the widget to get things done not just in Tupelo and Lee County, but for Northeast Mississippi," he said. "It's never been an 8 to 5 job — you do what you have to do to get it done."
Giachelli's boss at CDF since 2000, David Rumbarger, heaped praise on him.
“Greg was a loyal CDF employee for over 40 years, and I am grateful for his service to Lee County and the significant impacts he made in the economic development profession,” Rumbarger said. “Greg is truly deserving of this Honorary Life Member recognition."
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