Tupelo’s latest near-the-top ranking for economic growth cited by Site Selection Magazine helps sustain the community’s carefully coordinated prosperity efforts, started with the first stirring toward formation of the Community Development Foundation in 1948.
Site Selection ranks Tupelo No. 2 in its 2014 list of top communities excelling in 2013, trailing only Wooster, Ohio, among micropolitan areas, rural statistical areas with a city of at least 10,000 and less than 50,000 population.
Micropolitan Tupelo had 19 new and expanding projects in 2013. Wooster, Ohio, topped the list with 27 new or expanding existing industries.
Tupelo was in the top three micropolitans in 2006 and 2008.
In addition to providing a measure of jobs growth and investment, the Site Selection listing provides enormous amounts of free publicity.
Advertising executive Tom Robinson of Robinson and Associates in Tupelo, said such articles are “a public relations man’s dream.”
Robinson said every repeat mention, citation and social media communication increases the value.
Tupelo’s repeated high listing in Site Selection isn’t coincidental.
Tupelo can also point to earlier flattering nationwide exposure in the 2004 Site Selection listings, which cited information about the PUL Alliance (Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties) and certification of the Wellspring Megasite by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The acreage today is owned by Toyota, whose assembly plant operates along U.S. Highway 78/Interstate 22 at Blue Springs in Union County.
Other major national exposure has shown up over the years in lengthy articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, plus coverage in trade periodicals read and shared by development professionals.
Site Selection in 2004 reported six “core beliefs” defining Tupelo and Lee County developed by Lewis Whitfield, longtime community leader and current senior vice president of the CREATE Foundation:
• The community prospers only to the extent that individuals prosper, with organizations, programs and projects providing opportunities for individuals to grow and develop.
• Community development must precede or, at least, parallel economic development of a “complete community.”
• Key organizations can paint a vision, but implementing overall plans requires specific projects and programs.
• Success breeds more success; it also breeds more organizations, projects and programs for enrichment.
• Newcomers embraced and encouraged to become involved with community-building.
• Community development is hard, rewarding, work with necessary commitment to excellence in every phase of community life as a “long-term, never-ending process.”
In community development, as Tupelo/Lee County knows, almost nothing is accidental.