BY GARY PERILLOUX

Daily Journal

RIPLEY - Tippah County named a new economic development leader Monday while bidding farewell to the county's chief development officer of the past eight years.

Dixie-Net's Duane Bullard will succeed Eugene Taylor as executive director of the Tippah County Development Foundation, which held its annual meeting at The Peoples Bank of Ripley headquarters.

"It's been a pleasure to work with you over the years and we appreciate you so much," incoming TCDF President Mary Childs told Taylor, who received a standing ovation in the bank's Community Room. "And we look forward to working with Duane."

Bullard, vice president of sales and marketing at telecommunications provider Dixie-Net, will begin working full time Aug. 4. He'll continue as a consultant to Dixie-Net, which is within weeks of securing federal funds to create a fiber-optic backbone for high-speed Internet along state Highway 15 the length of the county.

"Anyone who knows me, knows that economic development is my passion," said Bullard, who worked in the field at Northeast Mississippi Community College and furniture manufacturer GFI, now Ashley. "We have a lot of ideas and a lot of things we want to do. ... We're going to do the best we can to fill up all of our industrial parks and create more jobs."

Outgoing TCDF President Kyle Smith said Taylor's contributions include the establishment of the 400-acre Walnut Industrial Park, which county leaders believe is poised for growth given its proximity to Memphis along four-laned U.S. Highway 72; the recruitment of EcoWater Systems north of Ripley; and three current expansions - polymer producer Elite Elastomers in the Tippah County Industrial Park, steel fabricator Abby Manufacturing in the Walnut park and Ripley furniture manufacturer Kirkwood Industries.

"We have accepted his resignation with sadness," Smith said. "He has served the development foundation and served Tippah County with integrity and dignity."

Taylor, 56, will continue pastoral duties at the West Pontotoc Pentecostal Church and looks forward the arrival of his fourth grandchild in October.

"(TCDF) has provided me an opportunity to give service to the county," said Taylor, a former Walnut principal and Northeast Mississippi Planning & Development District director. "What has been accomplished has been accomplished because of the cooperation of everybody. And I think that's the key to the game."

Ripley Mayor Mike Harrison echoed the sentiments of several speakers at the annual meeting.

"I think they put this in the right order," he said of TCDF priorities. "We have our existing industry here and we need to support them all we can."

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