Local entrepreneurs hosted an event in the Innovation Hub at Insight Park Tuesday night to talk about the future of Oxford with an entrepreneurship and technological perspective.
The event was hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund’s Entrepreneurial Alliance and Innovate Mississippi as well as many other companies, including FNC Inc. and the Chamber of Commerce.
The Entrepreneurial Alliance is a group of dedicated and experienced individuals who are working to develop the proper resources in order to provide means for Oxford to grow and become one of the greatest cities in America.
The meeting consisted of a discussion hosted by a panel of Oxford and Mississippi’s most prominent
entrepreneurs. Panel members included Max Hipp, president and CEO of the Environmental Defense Fund; Bill Rayburn, CEO and co-founder of FNC Inc.; Elizabeth Randall, founder of Randall Real Estate Investments LLC; Ed Meek of HottyToddy.com; and Malcolm White, director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division. The discussion was chaired by Jordan Bankhead, chairman of the Entrepreneurial Alliance.
Describing Oxford as “the envy of the rest of the state,” White attributed Oxford’s growth to its being a prime travel and film destination that leads the state with its creative economy.
“Oxford represents what all communities aspire to be, with a bright future ahead of the city that found its voice and its way years ago,” White said.
While Oxford has a small economy in terms of employment and population, it represents 73 percent of national earnings amongst men and 82 percent on par with national earnings for females.
If managed well, Oxford could have a $100 billion projected impact on the economy. The
jackpot, according to Hipp, lies in medical technology and services, as well as pharmaceuticals
and information technology.
Despite all the good things Oxford brings to the table, White believes the city and state itself is
also a paradox when attracting outsiders to come in.
“There is a negative image attached to Mississippi that must be corrected,” White said. “The long history of controversy and conflict puts Mississippi on the map; however, who we are makes us attractive but also repulsive to most other people at the same time.”
Panelists at the event agreed that Oxford’s next step is leading the state in open mindedness to change.
Hipp believes that Oxford needs to define its attitude towards growth. This openness includes cultural change, opening up new institutions while valuing quality over quantity.
Rayburn and the FNC want to make Oxford the next Austin, Texas, by bringing 10,000 new
technology centered jobs to Oxford in the next 20 years. This is Rayburn’s “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” needed to push Mississippi into a better limelight to erase the often negative reputation in the eyes of many states.
Various adjustments within Oxford were discussed such as expanding on land, acquiring telecommunication resources to improve cellular service and improving traffic by making Highway 7 a four lane highway. Panelists also discussed the opening of space on the west end of town that would offer a projected 400 new jobs.
Throughout the rest of the night, issues regarding parking, unemployment and capital were also big themes that sparked conversation from panelists.
Rayburn presented a tentative three step plan to expand the resources at hand. Rayburn stated that Oxford must first work hand in hand with the state’s Chamber of Commerce and the university. Oxford’s second step is focusing on creating more jobs. Rayburn’s last step is to rely on the contacts of the many successful Ole Miss alumni, around the Globe as well as nearby in Memphis and Nashville.
“These individuals need to be exposed to ideas generated by the university and the town,” Rayburn said.
Vice President of the Entrepreneurial Alliance Jon Maynard concluded the event by delivering what he believes to be the two foundational pillars of Entrepreneurial Alliance’s approach for growth in Oxford: resources and branding.
The session ended with a social hour where all guests were invited to speak further with the guest speakers and the EA panel. For more information on the Entrepreneurial Alliance in Oxford, contact Jon Maynard at the Economic Development Foundation at (662)-234-4651.