Cleveland joins other communities that have received this designation
By Jack Criss
The Bolivar Bullet
Cleveland has just been named Mississippi’s newest certified retirement city under the Welcome Home Mississippi program. Administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, the goal of WHM is to attract retirees from around the country to communities throughout the state.
“This designation gives Cleveland a new and exciting platform to tell our story. We know we have an excellent product, and this recognition just verifies that for those on the outside looking in, and offers us support with framing that story for those interested in moving to our region,” said Cade Holder, Director of Community Programs for the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce since April of last year.
“As the only WHM community in the Delta now, this designation will have an enormous impact on the city of Cleveland,” said Holder. “We have a certain and unique niche which has only gotten stronger and we believe, for example, with the help of Delta State’s Alumni Association, that joint efforts will be made going forward in order to attract retired DSU graduates back to Cleveland. We learned that we had made the cut a few weeks ago before the official announcement was made this week,” said Holder, “and so we are in early talks with DSU officials to target and recruit alumni.”
“MDA commends the city of Cleveland for taking the initiative to become a Welcome Home Mississippi retirement community. Retirees play a significant role in strengthening local economies, as they shop and dine locally and are active members of their communities,” said MDA Deputy Director Laura Hipp. “Cleveland is in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, the land of the blues, and boasts many unique attractions and events that cannot be replicated anywhere else.”
“We are really excited to have Cleveland named as a Retirement Community,” said Mayor Billy Nowell. “With Delta State here and all of our quality of life activities in Cleveland, we think we are the perfect place to retire–for anyone.”
Longtime Cleveland business executive, Ned Mitchell, had been entrusted to put together a task force of local professionals and business people two years ago by the Chamber. This group was given the task to meet the necessary requirements of ascertaining the retirement certification and work with the MDA to help Cleveland reach its goal.
“It’s a pleasure to see that our work paid off,” said Mitchell. “It’s a great victory for Cleveland, there’s no doubt about it. We are doing so well right now and have so many great things going on. That said, along with this certification, we have additional work to do, especially as regards having enough good housing for the people we want to attract to hopefully move here. Our task force will stay in place to help the Chamber in any way we can to develop any ideas or strategies that we are asked to help with,” said Mitchell.
As for the tangible impacts of the retirement community designation, a July 2019 study conducted by Alan Barefield, Ph.D., and Kalyn Coatney, Ph.D., of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University, revealed that in 2017, the economic impact of the Welcome Home Mississippi program was significant, especially in the communities engaged in the program.
Incoming retirees contributed $25.9 million to the state’s economy, and more than 200 jobs were created. In addition to the economic impact retirees have in their communities, they contribute in numerous other ways, including volunteering in and contributing monetary donations to local churches, schools, agencies and arts/cultural organizations.
Cleveland joins the cities of Aberdeen, Brandon, Clinton, Hattiesburg, Madison, Natchez, Oxford, Picayune, Southaven, Starkville, Tupelo and Vicksburg in the WHM program.