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Two Economic Experts Share Future Progress Predictions

HottyToddy.com’s Steve Vassallo recently visited with two of Oxford’s leading professionals who have a “hands on” knowledge of what’s transpiring currently in our economy.

Jon Headshot 2014
Jon Maynard

Jon C. Maynard is the President and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce. Dawn Testa is the broker with Award Realty Company. I began the discussion with Jon.
Vassallo asked Jon how he sees Oxford and Lafayette County’s growth in the next 2-3 years.
“Substantial,” he responded. “Retail sales are definitely on an upward spiral. In 2013, Lafayette County reached $800 million in sales, which was the first time ever! We are seeing more front doors, hotels and conferences, which translates into Oxford being a great place to call home or visit. Our major employers are adding jobs with the University and Winchester definitely contributing to this growth.”
Next we focused on the targeted industries and sectors the Economic Development  Foundation has as its primary objectives.
“Advanced manufacturing, Information  Technology, the Life Sciences and Entrepreneurship (start-ups) are the areas we’re most focused,” Maynard added. “We want to create those jobs that are dependent upon the skills being taught at Ole Miss. We are fortunate to have a ‘role model’ in FNC, as this company is a leader in IT, and they have done an excellent job in recruiting.”
Next we touched on all of the positive press and publicity that Oxford continues to receive.
“We push the stories out as often as possible utilizing social media, our website, emails , etc,” Maynard explained. “Third-party endorsements are the best form of advertising because these are free and more powerful than paying for ad space. We continue to convey these endorsements to travel writers and magazines.”
What about well intentioned people  continuously fear unprecedented  growth?
Maynard agrees this “is absolutely a real concern. We want to grow Oxford without changing Oxford. We’re looking for tropical fish opposed to whales. What I mean by this is we are pursuing recruiting opportunities for small, elegant, hi-tech jobs that pay well above industry averages. Research is a prime example of this, companies with 10 or fewer jobs that highlight six digit salaries.”
Maynard continued talking about the key importance of infrastructure. “We have to plan our infrastructure. If we’re not engaged in the growth, there will be outside influences that will ultimately grow Oxford and Lafayette County. We don’t  want runaway growth. We want to continue to attract retirees, students, faculty, research professionals, technical jobs as well as leading industries. We want to have a balanced planned progress with speed and efficiency.”
Finally, Maynard offered this opinion about entrepreneurism and business start-ups:
“Entrepreneurs flourish here primarily because we have everything they need —resources with access to capital and talent. The ecosystem is here — it just needs to be fertilized. FNC is a shining example of what entrepreneurship can be.”
Dawn Testa

Q&A With Real Estate Authority Dawn Testa
On the topic of Oxford-area real estate, Vassallo asked development and real estate expert Dawn Testa about her views on the unprecedented growth that is currently going on in the area.
HottyToddy.com — What do you think is driving the Oxford RE market primarily at the present time?
Testa — The continued economic growth of the city and county is certainly one of the major pulls.  And, while Oxford is still one of the greatest places to retire to, it is without doubt, one of the nicest areas to live in, no matter what your age. Whether they are moving to Oxford to work in the field of education, either at the college level, such as the University of Mississippi, or in our first-class city and county child education systems, it’s dynamic. Oxford is also great if they work in the medical field at our outstanding hospital, multitude of expert clinics, family medical practitioners or other health care professions. Great employment opportunities exist in our numerous business and industrial organizations that have made Oxford their home. People are choosing Oxford because of the exceptionally pleasant atmosphere, culture and opportunities.
HottyToddy.com — Where do you see this real estate market headed in the next 2-3 years?
Testa —While there is no doubt that real estate development in and around Oxford is still highly influenced by students, alumni, fans and fanatics of Ole Miss, I believe the next few years will primarily be influenced by professionals and entrepreneurs. They want to both enjoy the multitude of niceties we have to offer around Oxford and take advantage of the myriad of opportunities available in the community. There is so much opportunity right now in the service businesses and recreational fields, I think we will see many new start-ups very soon!
HottyToddy.com —Is there a segment of the housing inventory that we’re either short on or have a void? An example, what about the price range of $400,000-$600,000?
Testa —Recent data show that the median house value in Oxford is a little over $200,000. It is not altogether a surprise then that the number of houses in the $200,000 to $300,000 range is twice that of those the next lower and higher price groupings. I believe we need to see approximately a 50 percent increase in the proportion of houses in the $150,000-$200,000 price range, and also add more choice to our inventory valued from $300,000-$500,000. 
HottyToddy.com — Many people continue to ask what direction is the majority of growth headed. How do you see this from your perspective?
Testa — Quite obviously, Old Taylor Road and other areas south of Highway 6 have seen explosive growth due to their easy access to the University, and this has resulted in the recent past and current road infrastructure upgrades. With those improvements, I feel we could see yet more development toward the south. Recently, however, I have taken note of expansion to the west where we are seeing business developments emerging. This could forecast continued growth in this direction, especially as it is toward the interstate highway junction. To the east there is continued interest as recent developments are maturing, such as at The Lakes, The Highlands, and Tuscan Hills. While to the north, building is concluding on the last available lots in most new subdivisions. 
Steve Vassallo is HottyToddy.com’s newest contributor. Steve will be writing on Ole Miss athletics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. 

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