TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - After spending more than 30 years leading the charge to diversify the Tyler economy, Tom Mullins has announced plans to retire later this year.
Mullins came to Tyler in 1989 from Minnesota to become the President/CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council. He has also served as President/CEO of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce since March 1992.
In an interview with KLTV, Mullins said he arrived to East Texas following the economic downturn of the 1980s when energy cratered.
“At that time, Tyler was much more tied to the energy sector than we are now,” Mullins said. “When the energy sector went down it pulled everything down with it. Real estate, banking, services, retail. Just across the board, everyone was hurting.”
In an attempt to turn things around, Mullins was brought in to help execute a more aggressive approach to economic development.
“Tom Mullins was the right person at the right time,” said Barbara Bass, former Tyler mayor 2008-2014.
When Mullins came to Tyler, the economic drivers were considered to be oil/gas, manufacturing, distribution and agriculture. Over the past 30 years, that list now includes medical, higher education, tourism, technology, retirees and regional retail and financial
Since 1989, the TEDC has helped create 12,326 new jobs and retain just over 15,000. The council started in 1989 with just 20 members and $140,000 in assets. In 2019, the council has close to 120 members and nearly $10 million in assets.
“When Tom leaves his current position, I hope that as he drives around he sees the mark of his work,” said Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran.
Since coming to Tyler, Mullins and the city have been recognized three times by the Texas Economic Development Council with the Community Economic Development Award for outstanding local development achievements. In 1999, the TEDC became the first accredited economic development organization in Texas and is currently the second longest running accredited organization in North America.
Tom served as chairman of the Texas Economic Development Council Board for 2004-2005. He was also appointed to Governor Perry’s Council on Science and Biotechnology Development in 2002, and served as president of Northeast Texas Economic Development Council from 1992 to 1993.
“I’m a little bit nostalgic knowing that it’s going to be a huge change for Tyler and there are going to be really big shoes to fill in the meantime,” Bass said.
Mullins’ successor is set to be selected later this summer with hopes of starting in the fall.