Manufacturing has been the backbone of the Tupelo/Lee County economy for more than half a century. And while local economic development organizations maintain strong recruiting programs to attract new businesses to the area, the Community Development Foundation knows that it’s a lot easier to keep – and grow – the ones you have.
“Seventy-eight percent of new manufacturing jobs can be attributed to expansions of existing industries,” says Greg Giachelli, vice president of existing industry for the CDF.
“That’s why the staff of the CDF puts a lot of emphasis on providing information and tools to help our industries be successful.”
To prove his point, Giachelli rattles off a list of local manufacturers that are expanding, despite the down economy:
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is making a $36 million capital investment over the course of 2009-2010 and adding 150 new jobs. MTD Products is undergoing a $6.25 million expansion that will add 170 jobs. Martinrea Automotive Structures will spend $7.5 million and create 70 jobs. Lane Furniture has just added 180 new jobs, and the furniture industry as a whole, which accounts for roughly 30 percent of jobs in the area, is picking up. And that’s just to name a few.
One of the key factors contributing to Tupelo’s favorable business climate is its workforce. “The rural background and work ethic of our people is one of the most important factors we showcase and the reason our existing industry base is so strong,” Giachelli says.
Other factors include the non-union environment, strong partnerships and relationships with county and state government officials, a policy of tax incentives for locating and existing industries, a strong educational segment in the public schools, and excellent workforce training at Itawamba Community College.
Training and Manufacturing Skills
“Training is very important, because this is a time of transition to higher-tech jobs and the new type of labor that employers are looking for. Itawamba Community College sets the pace for the rest of the state with its Manufacturing Skills Certification program, customized training programs, the Advanced Education Center and the WIN Job Center,” Giachelli says.
The Tupelo area’s strong, diversified manufacturing base attracts skilled workers to jobs that command higher pay than service-sector jobs. The families that move into the area to fill those jobs spend money here and create a culturally diverse community.
“Manufacturing-income dollars turn over multiple times in the community. Higher incomes allow people to afford homes and spin off additional spending. The influx of new families also brings cultural diversity, and it’s hard to put a value on that,” he adds.
A lot has changed over the years, Giachelli notes, from political leadership to the evolution of high-tech manufacturing industries, but one thing has remained the same. “When you look at Tupelo, the CDF is the one organization that has been a constant, driving force, especially in keeping the business climate strong and nurturing the existing industry base for the last 40 to 50 years.”
Learn about more career opportunities in Tupelo, MS.