HOUSTON – The community gathered last week to salute economic development and honor those who are playing a roll in Houston’s success.
The Chickasaw Development Foundation presented awards to local businesses, organizations and individuals at their annual banquet at the First United Methodist Church Family Life Center Thursday night.
Longtime community cheerleader and community advocate Bill Smith was presented with CDF’s Spirit of Chickasaw County Award, the community’s premier honor.
“Everything that was said about me – I didn’t do it alone,” said Smith. “I want to thank them for this and I want to thank you.”
Smith is a former Mayor of Houston and has served in a variety of posts with CDF. Smith was instrumental in bringing a number of new businesses and industry to Houston. He is a long-time champion of 4-laning U.S. Highway 15.
Josh West, Regional Economic Developer for Pontotoc, Union and Chickasaw counties said the region was poised for success and Chickasaw County needed to fine-tune its economic development plan.
“You have a large labor force and the capacity to grow,” said West. “I have also learned in my time here that your leaders and elected officials are committed to economic development.”
West laid out a five point plan to prepare Houston and Chickasaw County to attract business and industry. West said the community needs to partner, provide, plan, prepare and promote.
West said Toyota came to Blue Springs because of a series of partnerships that came together to make Pontotoc the premier choice. He added that Houston needs to work with existing industry to provide services and help them grow, too.
“We also have to have a plan to get where we want to go,” said West. “I can’t do this and I need you to help me work with elected officials and community leaders to develop that plan.”
West said preparing a site for industry to build on is critical in today’s economic development market. He added that preparing an entire community for new businesses and industry is also a critical part of the economic development puzzle.
“We also need to promote our community,” said West. “We are actively marketing our assets and telling people what we have in Chickasaw County.”
The banquet also saw saxophone legend Ace Cannon entertain the crowd with five songs. CDF Executive Director Joyce East gave attendees an update on Tanglefoot Trail.
“The Tanglefoot Trail is economic development,” said East. “We will be known for the Tanglefoot Trail when it is finished. It will bring people to Houston and it will bring businesses and jobs to Houston.”
Others honored at Thursday’s banquet were:
- Business of the Year: Grocer’s Pride Supermarket, with owner Kirkham Dendy accepting the award.
- Main Street Rising Star: Silly Whispers with owners Linda Stevens and Becky Johnson accepting the award.
- Youth Organization of the Year: Chickasaw County 4-H with Chickasaw County Extension Service representatives Angie Abrams and Scott Cagle accepting the award.
CDF also honored veteran of both World War II and the Korean War with a special table.
Those recognized at the banquet were Daniel Allen, Walter M. Allen, Henry Bullard, Warren Cousin, Raymond Davis, Joe Lee Doss, Hershel Duffel, Arnold Duncan, Ruble Duncan, Joe R. East, Vernon Fortner, W.F. “Bill” Gann, James Hill, J.R. Penick, Jimmy Porter, Harry G. Robinson, Charles E. Smith, Herman K. Smith, W.D. Smith III, Jessie Voyles, Billy Walls, John Williams and Columbus Wright.
CDF also passed the gavel from its chairman Katie Grimes to incoming chairman John Walden.
The Chickasaw Development Foundation was founded in 1953, and is one of the oldest economic development organizations in Northeast Mississippi.
It has served as a catalyst for bringing about industrial growth in Houston and Chickasaw County. Although Chickasaw County ranks 53th in population among Mississippi’s 82 counties, it is 13th in manufacturing jobs.
Chickasaw County is home to the largest furniture store in the state and is home to one of the largest private furniture manufacturers in the nation.
The community manufactures a wide variety of products, such as wood products, upholstered furniture, polyfoam, cotton batting, carpet underlay, PVC pipe, wood turnings, shipping containers, specialized farming equipment, kitchen and gun cabinets and steel fabrication.