Ilex Organics opens in Clarksdale
November 3, 2021
Clarksdale Press Register
Clarksdale made its sixth economic development announcement in four years with Ilex Organics, a supplier of yaupon tea and Mississippi-grown catfish fillets, formally saying it was opening operations in Clarksdale.
Tuesday’s news was bitter-sweet, but needed, with the death of long-time business advocate Bill O. Luckett last week, coupled with his son Oliver unveiling his plans to bring business and jobs to Clarksdale on Tuesday.
“October 3, of last year, I came home to be with my dad,” said Oliver Luckett, to the crowd gathered outside the Yazoo Yaupon building in downtown Clarksdale. “In November we got the idea to begin this business when an ethnobotanist found a little plant in our yard in Clarksdale and offered to make (my dad) tea.”
Luckett said he began putting together the pieces of what he hopes will become a multi-million dollar crop/ manufacturing/marketing business that will see yaupon grown in Clarksdale, processed in Clarksdale and distributed from Clarksdale.
The project is a $2.612 million corporate investment and will create 60 jobs.
“When my husband and I moved back to the Mississippi Delta after nearly 30 years away, we found an inclusive community and an abundant opportunity to thrive,” said Luckett. “With the efficient and tireless work of the Crossroads Economic Partnership and the Mississippi Development Authority working to make Clarksdale the capital of yaupon tea, we were pleased to discover Mississippi is open for innovation and business for all people.”
Coahoma County is leasing Ilex the 38,000 square-foot former Gator Mills/Strom building.
Luckett has partnered with Florida-based Yaupon Brothers, which pioneered the cultivation and processing of yaupon for consumer tea products.
Yaupon Brothers currently is one of the largest farmers of yaupon trees in the U.S.
Luckett said he plans are to plant more than 1 million yaupon shrubs across Mississippi and Arkansas.
Ilex also is partnering with Mississippi catfish producers with the intention of purchasing premium catfish fillets and labeling and distributing them in Clarksdale. Ilex’s distribution channels include: Seattle Fish, Santa Monica Seafood, Samuels & Sons, Euclid Seafood, Fortune Fish, e-commerce giant Amazon and Crowd Cow.
The Mississippi Development Authority is providing assistance for building improvements and workforce training. The Crossroads Economic Partnership, Coahoma County, and the City of Clarksdale have played a role in developing the project.
“As the local economic developer, I am so very grateful to the Mississippi Development Authority and the state of Mississippi for their outstanding support of this project,” said Jon Levingston, Executive Director of Crossroads Economic Partnership. “Likewise, the abundant local support of our county and city has been critical to the success of establishing Ilex Organics in Clarksdale. Finally, we are honored that Oliver Luckett and his team chose Clarksdale in which to locate their innovative, forward-thinking company.”
Ilex plans to begin operations at their Clarksdale facility upon completion of its new plant and expects to fill the 60 jobs in the next two years.
“We are so pleased to welcome Ilex Organics to our community,” said Johnny Newson, President of the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors. “They represent job opportunities for our citizens and growth for our county.”
And the project has the potential to touch the entire Delta.
“The creation of 60 jobs in Clarksdale by Ilex will have a tremendous impact on the local community and economy for many years to come,” said Gov. Tate Reeves in a statement. “With Clarksdale’s accessibility to the FedEx distribution hub, the area’s strong workforce, and its proximity to the freshest catfish in the country, Coahoma County provides all of the competitive advantages Ilex needs for years of success.”
MDA Interim Executive Director Laura Hipp said the announcement will build on the success Mississippi and Clarksdale have had in attracting innovative and unique industry.
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