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A busy exhibit area was filled with businesses and residents at Wednesday’s Business and Community Expo at the Northcentral Electric Power Association headquarters in Olive Branch. 

Bob Bakken|DTT

The city of Olive Branch has gained fame the past several weeks for its inclusion in the "Best Places to Live in America" listing from Money Magazine.

Olive Branch was tagged as number five in the rankings of American communities of small to middle-sized population.

Being placed in the national spotlight in this way, as well as through other venues, such as being the fastest growing community in the country by Businessweek Magazine in 2011, indicates the interest others outside DeSoto County have had in the city.

The growth in population and the growth in business were on display Wednesday when the annual Business and Community Expo was again held at Northcentral Electric Power Association.

Many of the people who came to the event expressed the belief that the small-town feel with the big city conveniences were important factors to being a part of Olive Branch.

“It’s got all of the qualities of a small town but a lot of things you want to do and the amenities that you need in a big town,” said Darrell Patrick of CenturyLink, which serves the Olive Branch community.

Owners of small businesses in Olive Branch, such as Audie Simmons of the Merle Norman store on Goodman Road, believes the city has a lot to offer the people she deals with on a regular basis.

“We have the advantages of a larger town, without the disadvantages of a larger town,” Simmons said. “It’s a really good mix that serves the community well, and the businesses.”

The latest reported U.S Census figures for Olive Branch have the city’s population at 36,699, That is compared to the 3,567 figure in 1990.

There have been some estimates the population is actually closer to 37,500, as Money Magazine reported.

That is an increase of 9.6 percent since the 2010 census was taken.

The small-town feel and big-city convenience, as well as its location as part of the Memphis MSA (metropolitan statistical area) were among the factors Money Magazine touted in its “Best Places” ranking.

Josh Newsom, an Olive Branch banker who is also president of the local Rotary Club, felt events like Wednesday’s Expo introduce new firms and services that have chosen to locate in Olive Branch to those who live in the city.

“We really get to promote our business that we are proud of and at the same time get to know what other people do,” Newsom said. “With our growth, there’s so many new businesses coming into town that you might not know what each place does or where they are located. It’s nice to be able to get to know people on a business and on a personal level because this is such a great place to live.”

The local connection is very important to people in Olive Branch, such as financial advisor Ryan Barnes.

”We have a lot of local businesses that are trying to keep business local and I think we have a lot of residents that want to do the same,” Barnes said. “As a local business owner, that means a lot.”

David McNeely, another local financial advisor, has been in Olive Branch for 15 years with his business and believes the growth has helped make things more convenient for the city’s residents.

“Fifteen years ago, we used to have to drive across the state line to get some services,” McNeely said. “But now we can stay right here at home and get just about anything that we need within about a five-mile radius. DeSoto County itself is doing fantastic things in attracting businesses, attracting residents and things of that nature.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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