By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Max D. Hipp, retired president and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, was honored Tuesday night by the tandem organizations as their Citizen of the Year.
Hipp, an Oxford native who had been an economic developer in Greensboro, North Carolina, took the Chamber’s reins after it had lost the confidence of municipal and business leaders.
“He does it because he sees what can be, not what is, and he wants to make a difference in … the place he loves,” said Tom Sharpe, who presented the award.
Hipp launched the EDF, which led to an expanding industrial base. The Chamber strengthened recruitment and support of professionals, started a retiree attraction program that has drawn more than 1,000 households and helped establish a business incubator.
“He supported the emergence of an entrepreneurial economy,” Sharpe said.
During Hipp’s tenure, Oxford saw threefold growth in tourism, fourfold increases in retail sales and more than 26 times as much building permit values.
Sharpe noted that it was the Chamber’s innovation that used private homes to solve an insufficiency of hotel rooms for the 2008 Presidential Debate.
“The result was an overwhelmingly positive response to the Lafayette-Oxford-University community,” Sharpe said.
Hipp was generous with praise for colleagues, his staff and local officials, sharing credit for the changes in the thriving community.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot together,” he said.
Others honored at Tuesday night’s annual banquet were Lolita Gregory, Outstanding Service Award; and Torie Marion, Chamber Ambassador of the Year.
Jon Maynard, new president of the Chamber/EDF, said one of the organizations’ goals is to have Oxford known as an entrepreneurial capital where someone with a great idea and drive “can surround (himself) with creative equals.”