OUR OPINION: TVA’s regional tour affirms economic development role

TVA CEO Bill Johnson toured some of Northeast Mississippi’s major industries and sites Wednesday, all part of an affirmation that the Tennessee Valley Authority remains committed to economic development in its seven-state region.

TVA, still celebrating its 80th anniversary, had at its inception in 1933 economic development in the Tennessee Valley region as part of its mandate.

The electric utility, the largest public utility in the nation, has a staff dedicated to economic development across the seven states it serves.

That 80,000 square miles includes almost all of Tennessee and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. TVA historically has partnered with other economic development organizations like the Community Development Foundation, the PUL Alliance, Mississippi Development Authority and other organizations in Northeast Mississippi. It has played a major role in facilitating, certifying and identifying appropriate sites for virtually all kinds of businesses and manufacturing, including Toyota and Yokohama in Mississippi.

Johnson toured Tecumseh in the South Lee Industrial Park on Wednesday and the Yokohama site in Clay County, both with development strongly linked to TVA and its partners.

Tecumseh General Manager Joe Kulovitz said a $10 million project in progress could not have happened without TVA and the MDA partnering to move the plans ahead.

The $300 million Yokohama plant will initially employ 500 people – all badly needed jobs in an economically challenged county. Better still, three other phases could bring another $700 million investment and another 1,500 jobs.

As was repeated on Wednesday, in the past 18 months, more than 6,000 jobs have been created or retained in Northeast Mississippi, with capital investments totaling more than $1.4 billion.

TVA played a key role in providing resources (chiefly affordable, reliable electricity) and to help developers recruit and retain businesses.

The particulars of TVA’s role and methods have changed through the decades. We hope the interface within the region of strong intellectual and philosophical commitment to jobs development and a higher standard of living remain linchpins of TVA’s focus.

Congressional appropriations for the TVA power program ended in 1959. TVA is like other utilities. It must make it on its own.

TVA’s history is interwoven with the idea that big partners like TVA can empower individual communities like Tupelo. That’s what President Franklin Roosevelt said in 1934 at Robins Field when he officially inaugurated TVA power in the first TVA city – Tupelo.

That story hasn’t reached its end.