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Oxford on the Move: Jon Maynard is leading Oxford, Lafayette County’s growth

There’s no denying that Oxford and Lafayette County make for a unique community. And Jon Maynard, director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, wants to keep it that way.

Trying to compare Oxford to other Mississippi cities or other cities in the region makes no sense. We are small, but home to a large university. We are about arts and education and visitors and second home residents and so many more qualities that don’t match up with others.

That’s why Maynard implements an economic development strategy for Oxford and Lafayette County that is uniquely ours, with the ambition of adding quality growth that fits with the community’s culture and ambition.

“What makes my job difficult is we have this beautiful wonderful town and my job is to grow it without screwing it up,” Maynard says, laughing. “I want to grow an Oxford that people who have been here for many generations will be proud of.”

That, Maynard says, means that change for change sake has little value. It also means having a specialized approach.

“We can’t bake bread with someone else’s recipe,” he says, noting that Oxford has very little in common with Mississippi’s Golden Triangle as an example. “We have to bake our own bread, with the ingredients that we have.”

That means closely following and executing a plan that is not about trying catch whales – solely fishing for mega industries – but rather focusing on community assets and businesses that fit our qualities.

That, Maynard says, includes these characteristics:

• Recruiting people (retirees and others who make Oxford their new home contribute to the local economy)

• Dedicated support of existing local businesses (grow from within)

• Cultivating and recruiting entrepreneurial startups (these can turn into whales)

• Serving existing industry and aggressively working with potential industries that fit our community

• Embracing Oxford’s unique characteristics include food and culture and beauty

• Celebrating and utilizing the Ole Miss talent resource

• Sticking to strategic plans

The result, Maynard notes, is a holistic approach to economic development that yields both internal growth and a more organic external growth that is becoming of this city. He cites FNC as an example, the financial services software company that was started in Oxford by Ole Miss professors before being sold for hundreds of million to CoreLogic.

And sometimes, Maynard says, quality traditional industry is landed when it fits this community.

“In recruiting people, some of our tropical fish turn into whales,” Maynard says.

He mentions the Winchester plant, which came to Oxford because the company liked the quality of life and has since grown to more than 1,500 employees here.

“They are a tremendous asset to our community and they have quality employees and leadership that makes a good fit,” he says. “They get it.”

Maynard also says people like local chef and restaurateur John Currence and places like Oxford’s Square Books are part of that economic development equation in Oxford and Lafayette County because they raise to bar to national standards, creating a culture of excellence here that makes others want to live and work in the community.

It’s these qualities of the community that got Maynard here in the first place. As a young adult his family had movie theaters in Louisiana and he worked in them full time in his early 20s, learning the value of small business and community.

In 2006 he got involved with economic development in Louisiana, and moved to Mississippi to do the same type of work in 2008. When the opportunity came to move to Oxford in 2012 there was no hesitation.

“I have found that people here put community ahead of their own interests and that is refreshing and much easier to work with and when people really love the place they call home,” Maynard says.

He and his wife now consider Oxford their permanent home, which is more incentive to help the community grow economically in the right direction.

“This is where we want to be,” Maynard says. “Oxford is a better place to live than to visit and that is saying something. My job is to make sure it stays that way. So we will focus on economic development that is fitting for this community and try to keep it moving forward in the right direction.”