Murray State University’s newest Town & Gown partner is a quiet entity that makes a huge impact in our community. The history of the Calloway Economic Development Corporation (EDC) dates back to the closing of the Tappan Heating and Cooling Products plant. While initially viewed negatively in the community, it turned into a net plus by bringing two companies, Briggs & Stratton and Kenlake Foods, to Murray. It was during this time that the EDC became more active and influential in Murray and Calloway County. When the Mattel plant closed in 2000 it became clear that the EDC needed a professional economic development/industrial recruiter to negotiate on behalf of the community to bring in more industry.
Thanks to the urging of a close friend, Mark Manning who is originally from Mississippi visited Murray over 16 years ago for a quick tour and chose to accept the position as president of the EDC. He has a substantial background in business finance and a strong love of manufacturing. Mark is able to quickly bring together the varied resources and programs that provide creative solutions to make things work. While Mark brings substantial expertise to his role, he is quick to give credit to his outstanding Board that brings a wealth of knowledge and their own expertise to the EDC from across the community. The Board consists of Mayor Jack Rose, Amy Futrell, market president, Heritage Bank; Dr. Bob Jackson, President, Murray State University Foundation, Inc.; Ronnie Gibson, The Murray Bank Board; Judge Executive Larry Elkins; David Graham, executive vice president, Paschall Truck Lines; Dr. Robert Davies, president, Murray State University; Bob Hargrove, president, The Murray Bank, Kentucky State Representative Kenny Imes; Alice Rouse, retired publisher, Murray Ledger & Times; Mike Maxwell, vice president, BB & T; Dr. Ken Winters, retired university president and Harold Doran, retired banker.
According to Manning, the philosophy of the Murray-Calloway Economic Development Corporation is “do one thing and do it well.” For Manning and his Board of Directors, that one thing is to recruit new industry and take care of the existing industry so they can prosper and grow. The EDC has owned approximately 2 million square feet of property over the years and has been instrumental in bringing companies such as Vanderbilt Chemical Corporation, Pella, Saputo and iwis motorsysteme to Murray and Calloway County. Manning and his Board are constantly looking to raise the bar for our community (despite the challenges of a decline in industrial buildings available in the southeast) and developing a steady stream of trained employees for an increasingly technical workplace. One of the key components when recruiting a new business is having a suitable facility. With the help of several businesses and Town & Gown, the EDC is in the process of building a 62,000 square foot spec building in the Murray-West Industrial Park. The EDC also completed a very successful capital campaign with goals of raising funds to help market the new facility, cover interest expense while in the marketing phase and to fund the closing costs of bringing in a business to occupy the new building. Manning is grateful to Murray and Calloway County for their support of this endeavor stating, “The community gets it. This is one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever been involved in because people really stepped up.”
Town & Gown is excited to have Mark Manning and the EDC as our newest partner. According to Manning, a partnership with Town & Gown provides him access to the expertise that he needs to continue to raise the bar for our community as well as helping in recruiting new businesses to Murray and Calloway County.