TUPELO — You might call them the inaugural exhibitors. They are among the elite group of businesses and institutions who will participate in the first annual Northeast Mississippi Business & Industry EXPO, presented by the Mississippi Business Journal.
Approximately 75 exhibitors will be ready for the expected crowd of more than 3,500 visitors at the Tupelo Coliseum June 8-9.
Marc McGee, research outreach coordinator for Mississippi State University in Starkville, said participating in the Northeast Mississippi Business & Industry EXPO is important because “we hit a lot of markets with various sectors of the university — the extension service, research division, college of business and industry, engineering division and continuing education.”
“The Northeast Mississippi Business & Industry EXPO gives us the exposure to show the general public what the university is doing, help us with alumni, recruit students and show businesses and industries what we’re doing and how we can help them,” McGee said.
A strong economy is keeping northeast Mississippi moving in the right direction, McGee said.
“There are a lot of groups out there working to build the economy and Mississippi State University is one of those groups,” he said. “We work with economic developers to strengthen and recruit industries so the university can assist businesses and industries. We are taking a big outreach step by assisting industry and growing their research by letting us do research and development for them, which saves them money in the long run.”
Leroy P. “Buddy” McCarty Jr., 55, president and CEO of The McCarty Company, an architectural/engineering/construction firm in Tupelo, said “northeast Mississippi seems to maintain a productive mix of stable corporate entities and spirited entrepreneurial businesses.”
“We are also fortunate to have the medical, educational, financial, and governmental infrastructure to support steady growth,” he said. “Our company sees credible evidence that our local economy will remain strong for the foreseeable future.”
McCarty, who grew up in Tupelo during the late 1940s and 1950s, and has spent much of his professional career in northeast Mississippi, said, “I feel fortunate to have observed the evolution of Tupelo from the agriculturally-based economy of my childhood to the positive economic model it represents today.”
The Bureau for Long Range Economic Development Planning of the Institutions of Higher Learning will participate in the Northeast Mississippi Business & Industry EXPO in an effort to strengthen connections between the planning of Mississippi’s long-term economic development and its business sector, said spokesperson Pam Meyer.
The bureau serves as staff to the Special Task Force for Economic Development Planning, which was appointed by Gov. Kirk Fordice “to set measurable, achievable and significant state economic development goals,” according to the Statewide Economic Development and Planning Act of 1987.
“The bureau’s display will offer printed materials on long-range planning in Mississippi along with a computerized presentation on the planning effort to date,” Meyer said. “Copies of the bureau’s two main publications…will be available to businesses and individuals attending the EXPO. Bureau staff members will also be on hand to talk with businesspersons regarding the state’s long-range plan and to solicit input…from EXPO attendees.”
Pete Walley, director of the bureau, said the task force is charged with identifying strategies that will help Mississippi optimize its economic development by addressing issues that can only be remedied in the long run — workforce development, improved educational systems, effective use of science and technology, and others.
“We feel it is critical to learn more about the long-term needs of Mississippi’s businesses themselves, and to inform the business community about progress made so far in the planning effort,” Walley said.
Participation in the Northeast Mississippi Business & Industry EXPO will allow the Special Task Force to understand the fundamental needs of business that must be addressed in the next five, 10 or 20 years and to give businesses the opportunity to make recommendations, said Walley.
Blair Jernigan, CEO of Millennium Marketing Technologies of Jackson said he expects trade shows in Mississippi to prosper in the next few years.
“Mississippi is a ripe environment for trade shows like this EXPO because we’re centrally located between Dallas and Atlanta, and Memphis and New Orleans,” said Jernigan. “As the gaming industry grows and brings entertainment to our state, it’s a logical next step to become a more prominent player in trade show attraction.”
Steve Walton, manager of corporate communications for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, said, “as a statewide company, we feel it is important to be a part of events like this whenever possible.”
“Our customers are everywhere in the state, so we like to be a part of regional events,” he said. “If something is convenient for the customer, that’s good for us.”
Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, said the state agency decided to help sponsor the Northeast Mississippi Business & Industry EXPO to demonstrate support for Mississippi businesses in the area.
“These types of events are important resources in business-to-business marketing,” Heidel said. “In fact, we place a great deal of emphasis on Mississippi companies doing business with each other. We even produce a cross-match directory which identifies products a company may need in its manufacturing process which might be obtained very cost-effectively close to home. Mississippi is in the most sustained period of economic growth in our history. We need to use every available tool to help it continue.”