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 past decade 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 past decade 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 products and people.

Another important project of the last decade 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 more than 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 featuring world-class speakers designed to inspire attendees to lead and create desired change within their organizations and communities with renewed passion and drive. Ignite 2020 is set for Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Orchard Tupelo.

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 nine 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.

DAVID P. RUMBARGER is president and CEO of Community Development Foundation. Readers can contact him at rum@cdfms.org

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