IDEAs Center awarded $2.7M grant

TUPELO – Plans to expand downtown’s Renasant Center for IDEAs will move forward after officials learned Monday that they won a much-anticipated $2.7 million grant for the project.
The money came from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration as part of the federal stimulus program.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Community Development Foundation, which created the incubator, had jointly applied for the funding after putting up an identical $2.7 million themselves. But officials originally thought they’d know about awards in late September.
“I was expecting it to be approved, but not this quick,” said Lee County Supervisors President Tommie Lee Ivy. “We welcome this opportunity to invest in jobs for the people of Lee County through the building of phase 2 of the small-business incubator.”
U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., announced the grant award Monday. It’s the second such announcement in as many weeks: A $3.7 million federal grant was awarded to upgrade Itawamba Community College’s workforce training and development center in Tupelo.
“This significant Recovery Act funding will help create jobs and promote economic development to get our local economies back on track,” Childers said in a press release.
CDF and Lee County have yet to receive official word of the money, however, said David Rumbarger, CDF’s president and CEO.
amp”We’re waiting on pins and needles for the letter to come from the EDA,amp” Rumbarger said.
Lee County and CDF unveiled plans in July to double the size of the business incubator if they could obtain the grant. A 24,300-square-foot facility would be be built near the existing 31,180-square-foot incubator, which sits at Main and Elizabeth streets in downtown’s Fairpark District. CDF already owns the land for the proposed expansion.
The new building would have three floors and cost an estimated $5.4 million, but it hasn’t yet been designed.
The current business incubator opened in August 2006 and has helped launch 21 new enterprises and organizations. It also offers on-site business counseling, technical support, marketing assistance and networking, among other services.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal