Friday, September 15, 2006

Final Thoughts on Tupelo

I’ve been writing about Tupelo all week and still haven’t told you all of the things that impressed me about the town. My blog today is a compilation of some of the highlights of those items that I didn’t tell you about earlier.

David Rumbarger told me, “We suffered greatly in the recession of 2001. We lost 6,800 manufacturing jobs but have already gained back 4,500 new ones. We have had some great success in bringing in auto parts manufacturers with over 1,000 new jobs in that sector compared to only 200 five years ago.”

The CDF, which David runs, owns three industrial parks with over 3,000 acres that are strategically located around the county (that regional thing that they are famous for). They also put together a 1,500 acre auto super site in cooperation with neighboring Ponotuc, Union and Lee counties. David told me, “We’ve had three auto companies look at the site in the last two years.”

Tupelo is a strong manufacturing town, with over 30% of its employment in that sector. Some of those manufacturers have struggled, even as others have prospered. David told me, “Take the case of Omega Motion, which makes the movable parts on an easy chair. They have over 450 employees and are doing over 50% of their business internationally now compared to less than 10% only five years ago. They were one of those companies that came out of another furniture company. They only started operations in 1992.”

The town is also home to a number of major public companies (Hancock Fabrics, Action Furniture (Lane) and two major southern banks. It also has an incredible automobile museum, the largest buffalo park east of the Mississippi River and is home to the Tupelo Furniture Mart, a 1 million sf complex that has two week long shows each year that bring tens of thousands of furniture store owners into the town.

The CREATE Foundation, which George McLean set up at his death, continues to have a very positive impact upon the community. A hometown boy, March Banks, who went west and got into construction recently left them an $8.5 million bequest, so CREATE’s best days probably lie in the future.

Tupelo is beginning to brand: The Tupelo Story—A Community that Works!

If Elvis came back today, I’m not sure that he would ever leave Tupelo for Memphis. I hope to get back to Tupelo soon.

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