A Town Transformed

Source: Vanderbilt Business
Author: Nancy Wise
Original Publish Date: Fall 2008

Sharran Srivatsaa, MBA’08, remembers arriving in Tupelo, Miss., well after dark and encountering what most people would expect to see on a small-town Thursday night: very little. “There wasn’t much going on.”

Turner Family Center for Social Ventures
Image Source: Vanderbilt Business News

In the morning he saw the place, physically and figuratively, in an entirely different light, as through an arrival-in-Oz transformation when suddenly the picture turns from black and white into spectacular color. “When we woke up, suddenly it was a hub of activity—an amazing difference. We were told that, on weekdays, Tupelo swells from about 40,000 to more than 100,000. It really pulls workers in from the neighboring counties.”

Put another way, more people come into Tupelo each day to work than come in an entire year to see the city’s most famous attraction, the two-room house where Elvis Presley was born.

Well before Toyota chose Tupelo over many rival suitors as the site of a huge new manufacturing plant (set to open in 2010), the town would have been an economic wonder in any place, by any standard. But especially given this town’s location, visitors could be forgiven for saying, “I don’t think we’re in Northeast Mississippi anymore.”

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