Tupelo, Mississippi: Extremely Low Utility Costs Make it Prime for Manufacturing

Pictured is an available 275,000 sq. ft. building
located in Tupelo/Lee County.

By Charles Dexter Ward

Elvis Presley was born here and grew up to electrify the world. Meanwhile, Tupelo became the first city electrified by The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

"Today, that low-cost, reliable power along with nine area industrial parks, nearly 1.4 million square feet of existing building space, innovative worker training programs and other economic development resources have made ours the number one county for manufacturing in the state of Mississippi," said Community Development Foundation (CDF) Executive Director David Rumbarger.

One of the most creative forces in rural American economic and community development, CDF has built a business base in the Tupelo-Lee County area that includes such large international companies as Hunter Douglas (Netherlands), Norbord Industries (Canada), BTR: HON (Australia), and Wey Valve Inc. (Switzerland). American-based firms like Himolene, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Lane Furniture Industries, Bauhaus, and Tecumseh Products are also located here. And the Tupelo Furniture Market, which began as a place for local furniture companies to exhibit their upholstery products, is now the second largest furniture market in the United States with more that 1,000 exhibitors showcasing their products to international buyers from over 38 countries.

Rumbarger is quick to credit an emphasis on worker training and education as "one of the reasons" Tupelo is such a great business location. "Our Skill/Tech One Stop Career Centers network many of the services required to assist businesses and industries with workforce assessment, training and counseling-related activities. The Tupelo Center services Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Ponotoc, and Monroe counties," he said, adding that these services can be delivered on the Itawamba Community College campuses or on-site "depending on the need."

Rumbarger also touted a community-based, cooperative effort to improve and coordinate career training and development within the Tupelo area-the National Model for Technical Education. "Local leaders researched the five major employment areas determined to be in the greatest need of education and training development," he explained, "and determined those to be electricity/electronics, industrial maintenance, tool and die/numerical controls, data processing, and office occupations."

As a result of the program, the community college has developed new technology programs such as the Computer Networking Technology Class and Computer Aided Manufacturing Classes according to Rumbarger.

Another unique business resource is the CDF itself. Each year since its founding in 1948, individual volunteers, public officials, and community leaders have joined the business and industry members (who now number 1,200) to lend support to accomplishing the organization's goal of creating 1,000 new manufacturing positions and 1,500 new service sector jobs for the people in the Tupelo/Northeast Mississippi region.

"We utilize a professional staff with over 150 years of combined economic development experience to successfully attract diversified payrolls and jobs into our region," said Rumbarger. "And our dedication to developing innovative programs, projects and facilities has been rewarded by our selection three times as one of the Top Ten Economic Development Agencies in the nation by the Industrial Development Research Council of Atlanta, and Site Selection magazine."

For more information, visit CDF's website at www.cdfms.org