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CDF members celebrate stellar year with eyes on future

Toyota’s February announcement to locate its eighth North American vehicle assembly plant just outside of Tupelo set a pretty high standard of accomplishment for leaders of the regional Community Development Foundation (CDF) this year. But as CDF members celebrated their 2006-2007 tally of achievements at their recent annual meeting, they were also looking ahead at continued business, economic and community development strategies for the future.

“We can’t just rest on our laurels,” said Jack Reed Jr., who is serving this year as the new CDF chairman. “We’ve got to keep moving, as we have a great opportunity to recruit new companies with Toyota’s presence and the ripple effect from its activity.”

Toyota’s investment in the area was an overriding theme at the meeting, with special guest Jim Wiseman, vice president for external affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc., as an agenda speaker. The Toyota plant — which will produce Highlander SUVs and create 2,000 new jobs — is expected to begin operations by late 2009.

Wiseman lauded the area’s culture of manufacturing teamwork as one of the key factors in Toyota’s decision to locate in the region. “We look for people who can work as part of a team and we felt that we found that here,” Wiseman noted. Education was also critical in the assessment process. “The quality of the educational system is such an important issue, because when you’re looking at a plant like this, you’re thinking very long-term,” Wiseman stressed.

Wiseman reiterated Toyota executives’ announcement remarks regarding the company’s commitment to local communities. He said that Toyota respects its communities and strives to be a good neighbor while also learning from local communities.

Meeting attendees were provided a list of the year’s accomplishments, which also included Tupelo/Lee County’s recognition by Site Selection magazine as the number three-ranked micropolitan in the United States for new and expanding industry.

Chairman Reed delineated four priorities for CDF members for the coming year.

First, Reed said that he wanted members to do all that they can to help nurture and enhance existing businesses and industries, given the high percentage of new jobs that are created from existing entities.

Second, he said that the recruitment of new companies is a key focus, particularly with opportunities and enthusiasm created from the Toyota announcement.

Third, Reed said that the community should continue to promote itself as an outstanding place to work and live, with an emphasis on its quality-of-life attributes, and fourth, the area should strive to “be the best community partner Toyota has ever had.”
As a native of the region, Reed said that he has seen its spirit of cooperation reflect itself in numerous community and economic development endeavors, and that he looks forward to that continued teamwork in the year ahead.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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