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Eggs in Many Baskets – Tupelo, MS is Building a Diverse Economy

This Mississippi town is ranked at the top of lists for job creation and economic diversification.

By Kevin Litwin on February 22, 2018

Tupelo, MS
Tupelo / Courtesy of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company

A five-time All America City winner, Tupelo is also ranked among the Top 10 Micropolitan Cities in America for success in job creation and economic diversification.

Tupelo is strong in several sectors and especially in four: education, finance, health care and manufacturing. A key component of the city’s success is that it serves as a regional hub for Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama because residents of those areas don’t have a big city nearby, since both Memphis and Birmingham are two hours away.

“We are actually a city unto ourselves and have built a diverse economy – we don’t have all eggs in one basket,” says Mallory Lawson, director of communications and public relations for the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo. “For many years now, we have invested in creating our own economic prosperity that has resulted in a strong and steady economy.”

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Several Successful Sectors

One of the strongest economic sectors in Tupelo/Lee County is health care, with North Mississippi Health Services and its North Mississippi Medical Center leading the way.

“The health care industry is huge, with North Mississippi Medical Center attracting patients from 24 counties and even across state lines into Alabama and portions of Tennessee,” Lawson says. “The hospital has 650 beds, serves an area of more than 730,000 people, and has a staff that represents more than 50 medical specialties.”

Another major economic driver is education, with the region having both the Tupelo Public School District and the Lee County Schools system. Also in the community is Itawamba Community College and Mississippi University for Women, and residents are only 45 minutes from the University of Mississippi and an hour from Mississippi State University.

“In the area of finance, we have two excellent homegrown banks with BancorpSouth and Renasant both headquartered here, while the retail industry is growing with our population and led by The Mall at Barnes Crossing,” Lawson says. “In addition, we have a strong construction sector with companies like JESCO Inc., and our hotel industry continues to thrive thanks to multiple tourism attractions and our convenient location off Interstate 22.”

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Built Strong

Also experiencing great success in Tupelo/Lee County is the manufacturing industry. Major companies include Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi, AW Manufacturing, HomeStretch, Hunter Douglas Metals & Distribution, Limoss US, Martinrea Automotive Structures, MTD Products, Okin America, Philips Lighting, Raybern Foods, Renin Corp.-Home Décor Innovations, Southern Motion, Tecumseh Products and Wey Valve.

“The manufacturing sector accounts for about 21 percent of our overall economy,” Lawson says. “Key players are companies involved in automotive, furniture, electronics and food processing.”

One of those successful manufacturers is Omega Motion, a Saltillo-based company that has evolved in less than 10 years to design and produce metal-based components for hundreds of furniture companies throughout the world. Omega Motion stamps parts for everything from recliners to rocking chairs, and the company runs eight presses that are manned six days a week with three shifts.

Another successful local manufacturer is Cooper Tire & Rubber Company-Tupelo, whose manufacturing plant has produced tires ever since December 1984. Cooper has nearly tripled the building’s square footage over the years and increased employment to a current 1,600 full-time workers.

“Cooper Tire is where many employees have chosen to work for decades, and those new to the workforce can kick-start a meaningful career here,” says Greg Hinton, Tupelo plant manager. “You get the advantage of being part of a global company with the small-town feel of a local plant. There are numerous opportunities within this organization.”

Hinton adds that in 2017, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality recognized the Tupelo plant for its environmental stewardship, and Cooper Tire is also a part of a “Dream It. Do It.” national initiative to enhance the image of careers in manufacturing among youth.

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