OUR OPINION: CDF sets strong goals in face of competition

The 1948 organization and chartering of the Community Development Foundation rested on a commitment to finding, recruiting and securing more and better jobs in a post-World War II economy needing to shake off the vestiges of the Great Depression.

That idea, melded with fresh methods, innovation and energy, produced an economic revolution that transformed the opportunities available in Tupelo and Lee County.

The CDF on Monday renewed its 65-year-old commitment to that basic goal for 2014, but the success to date is reflected in mileposts to reach in the next year:

• $16 million in new payroll from job creation

• $40 million in new capital investment

• Locating nine new companies in the Renasant Center for IDEAs business incubator and implementing two enhanced and/or new K-12 workforce skills programs
Manufacturing employment in Tupelo and the region in 1947 was a virtual blip on development radar, but this year the region ranks second statewide (47,591 industrial jobs) behind Southeast Mississippi, with 58,347 industrial jobs.

In March 2013, 10,430 people worked in Lee County manufacturing jobs, and non-manufacturing employment stood at 43,030, CDF reported, for a 53,370 total in Lee County, larger than the populations of all regional counties except Lee and Lowndes.

The March 2013 total in Lee County notably is about 3,000 jobs higher than in 2012, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lee County ranks fourth in total employment statewide trailing only Hinds, Harrison and Rankin counties, all more populous.

CDF President and CEO David Rumbarger said the next generation of jobs recruited to Lee County probably would include a CDF commitment to help new industries find their workforce, a task left entirely to individual companies in CDF’s earliest decades.

CDF from the beginning used locally raised capital to incentivize jobs location, early amounts in the tens of thousands, but most recently two campaigns raised $5.4 million in commitments.

It’s also important to note that CDF’s success has not diminished competition, including from similar organizations like the Golden Triangle Development Link, which represents the development goals of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha counties.

The record its leadership has amassed in the last decade is impressive, even enviable, by almost any standard.

CDF is equal to the task but nothing can be taken for granted.