Expansion plans for the Renasant Center for IDEAs – Tupelo’s business incubator – affirm the success of the 31,180-square foot first phase, opened in downtown’s Fairpark District in 2006.
An addition that would almost double the center’s size is an explicit endorsement of its long-term economic prospects.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors and the private-sector Community Development Foundation announced jointly on Tuesday that they will seek $2.7 million from the federal Economic Development Administration for half the cost of a planned $5.4 million expansion.
The IDEAs center campus occupies the corner of Main and Elizabeth streets.
CDF and the county’s governing board have had a productive business relationship that has successfully built industrial parks, the IDEAs center’s first phase, and many other jobs-producing projects.
The public-private partnership not only combines resources at the beginning of the project, it provides valuable linkage to continuing government promotion of private-sector jobs, which some clients of the IDEAs center may seek as they grow and move into permanent locations.
The center, which has been cited for its innovation and technology, is more than a space; it is a state-of-the-art business environment.
The Renasant Center emphasizes entrepreneurial businesses, a sector that has been the backbone of the Northeast Mississippi economy for decades. Its seeks to:
– Create jobs and wealth;
– Nurture an entrepreneurial climate;
– Spread the use of technology;
– Diversify the local and regional economy;
– Create and retain businesses;
– Encourage women or minority entrepreneurship;
– Identify spin-in or spin-out business possibilities; and,
– Contribute to community revitalization.
The IDEAs center, like more than 20 percent of similar programs nationwide, has direct ties to government (the Lee County board), and it is a creation of an economic development organization (CDF).
In the process of building and development, a consortium of much broader partners develops, including, for the Renasant center, TVA, existing private businesses, and the state. All the backers add strength because their goal is success in the use of their investment.
The IDEAs center’s highest-profile client was Toyota, which is neither entrepreneurial nor start-up, but its leasing of space was an endorsement of the facility. The Toyota work force has moved to the assembly plant site at Blue Springs, where planning continues for production of some kind of Toyota vehicle.
An expanded IDEAs center will become an even stronger magnet for developing prosperity.

NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio