With the theme "Our Future's So Bright. ... We Gotta Wear Shades," hundreds of CDF members packed the Tupelo Furniture Market and were feted with food from area restaurants and music by Tupelo-based Homemade Jamz.
Dr. David Irwin, the economic development group's first physician chairman, turned the reins over to David Copenhaver, the first automotive manufacturing representative to assume the role. Copenhaver is vice president of administration for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi in nearby Blue Springs.
In his farewell address, Irwin noted the opening of Toyota's plant last fall.
"That single event opened a new horizon that will forever influence and improve employment prospects for everyone in Northeast Mississippi," he said.
Toyota Mississippi employs some 2,000 workers, and seven suppliers employ hundreds more. Three major suppliers are located in the region: Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi in Baldwyn, Toyota Boshoku in Dorsey and Diversity Vuteq in New Albany.
"We have witnessed a sea change in our economic future and a fulfillment of a community dream that was 10 years in the making," Irwin said.
Irwin also highlighted the economic achievements in Lee County and Tupelo during the past year, which included the location and expansion of 14 companies. Capital investment in those projects totalled $29 million and 367 new jobs were created with an average salary of more than $40,000.
Copenhaver, an economic developer for more than 20 years before joining Toyota in 1996, praised CDF for being a "model economic development organization."
"Never has our mission for more and better jobs been more critical," he said.
Also honored were the 18 graduates of the Jim Ingram Community Leadership Institute Class of 2012 and Bea Luckett, named the 2012 CDF Ambassador of the Year.