By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Recently retired economic developer Max Hipp was given a carefully targeted honor Thursday when Lafayette County officials announced the county’s industrial park would bear his name.
The Max D. Hipp Industrial Park will take its new name next week after the Board of Supervisors officially passes the measure, to which all supervisors have already given verbal assent.
“I had no idea,” Hipp said. “I thought it was a joke at first. I couldn’t imagine something like that.”
The honor was revealed at a reception for Hipp as he marked the end of a 25-year career as executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation.
In Hipp’s nearly 25 years of leading economic development in Oxford, the community has long since left being a typical little Southern town that happened to have a college. Now a micropolis known internationally for high-tech companies, a quality of life that attracts both young professionals and well-to-do retirees and one of the fastest growth rates in the state, Oxford and the surrounding Lafayette County community can attribute much of their success to Hipp’s work.
Abbeville banker Sherwin Haynie recounted the county’s growth during Hipp’s tenure – from about 31,000 people to more than 50,000, a fivefold increase in assessed valuation and seven industries where there used to be three. He noted the demand for real estate, from commercial to apartment to family homes.
“You could buy a house around here for $35,000 to $55,000 back then,” Haynie said. “Now, $55,000 won’t get you off the sidewalk.”
Jon Maynard, Hipp’s successor in leading the twin development organizations, acknowledged him as both a business leader and a fine human being.
“Max is very special. He’s been a mentor to me and a really good friend,” said Maynard, who labeled himself “the Hipp replacement.”
He noted the variety of programs, businesses and quality of life factors that Hipp helped bring about in Oxford and Lafayette County.
“It will be my job to honor Max and what he’s done for the past 25 years,” Maynard said.
In addition to the industrial park renaming, Hipp was also given a “bullet board” that displays every ammunition type produced in Oxford by Winchester/Olin – one of Hipp’s many success stories – and lifetime memberships to the Chamber, the Economic Development Foundation and the Mississippi Economic Development Council.
“He’s done a lot of hard work for a long time,” Haynie said. “He and his success are envied by almost every economic developer in the South. He’s considered the dean of economic development professionals, and we’re very proud to have had him.”