OXFORD – The Tennessee Valley Authority recognized Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi as a Valley Sustainable Gold Community at a ceremony Tuesday at Ole Miss’ Innovation Hub.
The L-O-U community is the only one outside of Tennessee to earn a designation in the program, which aims to help communities improve and catalog sustainability efforts to make them more attractive to industrial and business prospects.
“We live and breathe economic development … balanced with societal and environmental values, TVA Mississippi economic development official Kristi Brown said. “The purpose of our program is to make our communities more competitive.”
“It’s not a surprise to see sustainability and economic development partnered,” said Ian Banner, university architect, director of facilities planning and director of sustainability. “Sustainability has efficiency at its core.”
Several initiatives were cited in LOU’s successful bid, from transit and local food production to the solar panels on the university’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence.
Alderman Janice Antonow noted Oxford’s strong recycling program, urban forest conservation measures and network of bicycle-pedestrian paths.
“These three initiatives were begun and sustained by citizens,” she said.
Former Mayor Richard Howorth, who is now on the TVA Board of Directors, said Oxford’s sustainability efforts largely sprang from the late 1990s “Vision 2020” long-range planning project.
“We were merely trying to improve the community,” he said, noting economic development was a secondary result.
Oxford-Lafayette Economic Development Foundation President Jon Maynard credited his predecessor, Max Hipp, along with Katrina Hourin, Oxford’s assistant city planner, and Anne McCauley, Ole Miss’s assistant director of sustainability, for the community’s successful pursuit of the TVA recognition.
While vowing that L-O-U would next pursue platinum certification, Maynard encouraged other communities to follow suit.
“I would be thrilled to have every community around here at least at Gold,” he said. “That would show that the state of Mississippi beats the stereotype, that we are forward-thinking, that we are doing things we need to be doing as a state. That would make Oxford even more attractive.”