September 26, 2011 9:00:00 AM
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- It wasn't until Jeffrey Rupp was elected mayor of Columbus that he truly became interested in economic development.
During his service to the city of Columbus, Rupp had the opportunity to visit with the late Congressman Sonny Montgomery.
"We weren't close but I always got the sense that he was in it for the people, not the party," Rupp said. "That type of mindset applies to economic and community development as well and I've always tried to be mindful of his desire to work for the common good."
Rupp has taken that spirit of community into his position as director of business outreach for Mississippi State University.
"When talking about economic development, we tend to focus on jobs but the real benefit is realized in the increased quality of life that comes when communities prosper," Rupp said.
MSU officials said Office of Business Outreach works to provide up-to-date information, high-quality conferences, workshops, seminars and expert technical and organizational assistance, as well as custom-designed in-house training for organizations.
It has four divisions -- Division of Business Research, the Division of Business Services, the Small Business Development Center and the Technology Resource Institute.
"MSU is heavily invested in service and outreach through our extension service and other resources. TRI is uniquely positioned to deliver the outreach component because of our existing network of business, community and political leaders and our access to top-notch faculty and staff at MSU," Rupp said.
Rupp's job is to leverage university resources to help in economic and community development efforts across the state. He said it can be as simple as helping a blackberry farmer establish a Web presence or doing market research on a new product for a large existing company that wants to add to or retain its current work force.
"We track out clients for several years documenting the amount of investment and jobs created," Rupp said.
Rupp said TRI has worked with about 50 clients this year across Mississippi.
"Many were established businesses looking to expand into new markets, some were entrepreneurs trying to get their businesses off the ground.
"We use teams of MBA students to do extensive research collecting qualitative and quantitative data to help businesses stay competitive with the goal of adding new jobs. We also help entrepreneurs prepare business plans to present to their bankers and put some of them in front of angel investors. Again, the goal is investment and job creation."
While mayor, Rupp said he developed a community-minded perspective.
"Being mayor was perhaps the most challenging and rewarding job I've ever had. As mayor I developed an appreciation of the importance of creating a sense of community, a sense of place.
"I also learned a great deal about getting people with different opinions to agree upon things that were in the best interest of all."
While Rupp has a master's degree in public policy and administration from MSU and completed programs of study at the Economic Development Institute at Oklahoma University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, it was his bachelor's degree that brought him to the Golden Triangle.
Rupp's bachelor's degree in radio-television and film from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa., led him to work at WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, owned by the same corporation as WCBI-TV in Columbus.
Rupp said he loved his 15-year career in broadcast journalism. He became vice president for news for the Imes Corporation' stations, but is best known for his role as anchor at WCBI-TV.
"That's where I developed my interest in politics," Rupp said. "Both of those jobs gave me an appreciate that it's everyday people who really make a difference. As a reporter I interviewed presidential candidates and celebrities but my most memorable stories were those that involved ordinary people doing extraordinary things."
Today, Rupp said he continues to look up to small business people, working families and those working in financially strapped communities.
"These are the folks I look up to now," Rupp said. "I admire my wife Donna. She's juggling more and more responsibility at work and between us we're doing our best to take care of our two young girls, like hundreds of other families in Starkville."
Donna Rupp said her husband is one of the most committed people she knows.
"Whether it is work, friends, family, music or just exercise, if he sets his mind to something he will work hard until he had reached his goal," Donna Rupp said. "He has great focus and determination. I really admire that about him."
While the Rupps are enjoying life, the future is filled with positive expectations.
"I honestly don't know what's next, but I do know that I want to continue doing something that has a positive impact on my community and my state," Rupp said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
roscoe p. coltrain commented at 9/28/2011 4:59:00 AM:
The part I admire about him is how he cut and run after begging for a second term as Mayor.
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