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Business Pulse: Top stories of 2012

We have stopped elaborate Santa routine

We passed a somewhat sad milestone in the Clark household this year. It was the first Christmas since having children we didn’t place special gifts under the tree we pretended were from Santa Claus.
As many parents know, this whole Santa routine can be quite an ordeal if you’re really looking to give the performance some flair. For starters, there’s special wrapping paper you have to buy – and keep concealed in the most remote closet in the house – because it would be awfully suspicious if Santa delivered a gift in the exact same wrapping paper used by mom and dad.
You also have to be careful to disguise your handwriting when signing the label because that too would look a little fishy if Santa’s penmanship was exactly the same as mom’s. These are just two little things you have to do if you have any hopes of selling the Santa charade.
If you really want to get elaborate, you can have your child set out milk and cookies for Santa. Then dad gets to come along after the kids are asleep and take one enormous bite out of that cookie to show Santa has been there – and has an extremely large mouth.
This year we decided to forgo that elaborate hoax and didn’t have a single gift from Santa under the tree. We knew it wouldn’t bother our oldest son, who is now in middle school. He’s known about Santa for years, ever since riding with him in the horse-drawn carriage at Three Star Mall. It was during that ride around the mall on an extremely windy day that Benjamin saw the white beard blown right off Santa’s face.
I saw the beard go – and saw Santa try to save it – but there was nothing he could do. I looked over at Benjamin in hopes he had glanced away for just a second and had perhaps missed the beard leaving Santa’s face. But he sat there in stunned silence fixated on Santa’s bare chin. He had the unmistakable look of a child who had just discovered Santa Claus isn’t real.
Without going into any more details about that disaster, I can say our youngest son has never had an attachment to Santa. He has never wanted to sit in Santa’s lap, which I believe shows real maturity and intelligence. Frankly, I wonder about the wisdom of encouraging our kids to sit in some strange man’s lap. It’s kind of creepy. The kids who refuse are probably the smart ones.
To bring this story to an immediate end, I will close by saying there were no sounds up on the rooftop of the Clark household this year, and no fat man coming down the chimney. In this day when seemingly everyone owns a semi-automatic assault rifle, this is probably a good thing. If there’s a fat man in a suit walking around the living room on Christmas Eve, the kids of today likely want to know why daddy didn’t shoot him.

Top stories
of 2012

In bringing you the top 10 business stories of 2012, the editors of Business Pulse want to emphasize these aren’t the 10 best stories of the year. These are the stories that have been determined to be the biggest stories of the year – which includes both good and bad.
New jobs are always cause for excitement and there were hundreds of new jobs created locally this year. There were also some business closings which grabbed attention and a couple of those are listed too.
Here’s the list. Let the analyzing and second-guessing begin.

1. Yorozu adds
some 500 jobs

As the automotive industry began building steam, so did the workforce at Yorozu. The company started 2012 with a burst of hiring that brought its employees from around 1,000 to 1,157 by the end of February.
That steady hiring continued through the summer when the automotive parts supplier had around 1,400 employees by the end of June. Just when folks thought the hiring might begin to slow, Yorozu announced in July it was looking to hire 150 more employees to bring its workforce in the neighborhood of 1,550. That’s a pretty nice neighborhood.
Yorozu has so many employees, the company experienced trouble with its parking lot because there were too many vehicles and not enough spaces. The company also is having difficulty cramming all its manufacturing lines under one roof. But as Yorozu officials have said, it’s a good problem to have.
Looking back over the years, Yorozu’s current workforce is believed to be second only to Carrier in its heyday in terms overall size. At its peak, Carrier had just slightly more than 2,000 employees.
The only industry I can think of which would rival Yorozu for the No. 2 spot would be Century/ MagneTek/ A.O. Smith, which had right at 1,300 employees at its peak.
Bridgestone may be looking to close the gap too, especially after it hires 50 more employees in 2013. However, it will still be short of Yorozu’s current workforce.

2. MPC starts

It had been over two decades since local industrial officials had recruited a manufacturing company to Warren County, but that changed at the beginning of 2012 when Miniature Precision Components began production in January.
The news was a pleasant surprise for a company which had originally said it viewed its Warren County base as a warehouse and distribution center – not a manufacturing facility. But MPC decided to change gears and production of a plastic engine shield for Nissan began in mid-January.
With that line working well, MPC has recently moved several new pieces of equipment to its local facility with new product launches in store in the near future. MPC has done so well earning work, it is in the process of finalizing a 50,000-square-foot addition to its building at Mt. View Industrial Park.
This is after less than one year of operation.
The company appears poised to have a workforce over 100 in the next three years. It’s been a huge success story.

3. Spec Building 3
gets under way

The Industrial Development Board signed a contract for $1.5 million in November to have Spec Building 3 complete by the end of May. It will be a 50,000-square-foot shell, very much similar to the building currently being occupied by Miniature Precision Components.
Spec Building 3 is already generating steady interest from the usual suspects – automotive suppliers. A company that’s been given the name Project Blue Sun has looked at the site. It has job projections of 190 employees in five years. A company given the name Project Shine has also toured the site. Its job projections aren’t nearly that high.
With Warren County suddenly finding itself in the heart of automotive country between Chattanooga and Smyrna, we are sure to get interest from outside companies as long as we have spec buildings.

4. Hospital has
new partnership

It wasn’t an announcement that came with the promise of hundreds of new jobs, but it was an announcement that’s expected to improve the level of healthcare available locally.
On May 1, Capella Healthcare, the parent company of River Park Hospital, announced a partnership with Saint Thomas, a known leader in the healthcare industry. The partnership is seen as a way to give local residents an extremely high level of care without having to make an out-of-town trip to Nashville.
Said Capella CEO Dan Slipkovich, “This is a way to improve and enhance healthcare going forward. Our goal is to serve more people locally.”
The partnership has already produced local benefits as River Park is establishing stroke and heart centers under the guidance of Saint Thomas that will provide top-quality care in McMinnville.

5. Newtown Foodland
goes out of business

This is the part of the top 10 list I mentioned earlier that’s not particularly fun. Making the list at No. 5 is the closing of Newtown Foodland after 31 years in business.
The loss of the store was a heavy blow to residents of that end of the county, who could save themselves time by stopping there instead of driving all the way into town. It was a nice convenience.
Regular shoppers had noticed shelves at Newtown Foodland weren’t always as fully stocked as they once were, creating concern the store may be closing. Owner Richard McMahan delivered the unfortunate news June 24 as the store began a liquidation sale before going out of business about a week later.
The property is available for sale or for lease and has proven itself for more than three decades as a site which can support a grocery store. Perhaps 2013 will be the year something opens there again.

6. Webb House
nears completion

A new assisted living facility began construction in 2012 and is expected to be open in the spring of 2013. Webb House, owned by Alan and Lora Webb, is projected to create 50 jobs and provide a comfortable atmosphere for seniors. It’s located on Manchester Highway near WCHS.
Alan and Lora are no strangers to the assisted living business, having operated a facility in Smithville for several years. Their vision is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment to make life easier for seniors as they age. Singles or couples can live at the facility, which is currently accepting room reservations at 668-WEBB.

7. Sentosa
leaves town

Restaurant patrons hoping to grab lunch at Sentosa were surprised on Monday, Jan. 30, when they pulled into the Sentosa parking lot to find moving vans. Instead of being open for business, there was a sign that said the restaurant was closed for renovations.
In hindsight, the sign was hung on the door to buy the restaurant operators extra time to get out of town as they took everything that wasn’t nailed down – and a few things that were. In a sad sidenote, the restaurant has not be opened since. It has been closed for 11 of the 12 months in 2012.
What was once a popular spot when the restaurant was Ryan’s is now an unwanted space. At 10,000 square feet, the building is too big to support a restaurant in McMinnville. It’s now being considered for other uses other than food service.

8. Dollar General
opens store No. 8

America’s strategic reserve of Dollar General stores is located in Warren County. For anyone who is counting, and I certainly am, the company opened its eighth store in Warren County at the end of May. It’s located across from WCHS.
For anyone not familiar with the Dollar General model, I’m not about to explain it in this space. There’s surely a store located within a couple blocks of most local residents so you can see for yourself if you don’t know what’s inside.

9. The Vineyard
shuts down

In a restaurant opening that was greeted with tremendous anticipation, The Vineyard in Newtown opened at the end of 2011. For a community yearning for a nice, upscale restaurant, The Vineyard boasted a menu that included fresh-cut steaks, Italian grilled chicken, pork chops, pasta and shrimp.
However despite all the hype given by me in this column, The Vineyard wasn’t able to make it over the hump. The restaurant closed in June after about six months in business. In July, local businessman Jimmy Zavogiannis bought the property at auction and has been looking to lease it or sell it. If you’d like to do either, give Jimmy a call.

10. Jeff McCormick
tenders resignation

The talk began to surface over the summer that director of economic development Jeff McCormick was on shaky ground after he got on the wrong side of a few county commissioners.
That talk led to several meetings about McCormick’s future before the Industrial Development Board accepted his resignation, which goes into effect Dec. 31.
What adds spice to this story is the fact the job search for McCormick’s replacement has gone extremely slow. And several industrial prospects are fast pursuing Warren County as a place to locate.
With so much going on and no replacement in sight, the Industrial Development Board is having to crawl to McCormick to ask him to continue to work on a 90-day contract. This begs the question: Do they want him or not?

Honorable mention

From top to bottom, I think it was a solid year for business news. Several quality stories didn’t even make the top 10 list.
That includes fire destroying the old Dairy Hill in Mt. Leo on April 10. That building had been the site of a restaurant for nearly 50 years.
Also not making the list was the decision to close the McDonald’s inside Walmart. That took place at the end of January and was a sad day indeed.
Another headline-grabbing story was the controversy surrounding the fire on Main Street that destroyed City Cafe. That fire took place in 2011, but the legal fireworks didn’t take place until 2012 when the city forced Mark Latka to destroy his building at 205 E. Main Street because it was a safety hazard.
The move also allowed five vacant lots to be joined together on the corner across from First National Bank. Many local residents hoped the five properties could be lumped together with the hope of having one nice development take place on that corner, but it doesn’t appear to be in the near future.
First National Bank owns two of the lots. Latka still owns his in the middle, and the city still owns two on the other side of Latka and has been unsuccessful in its attempts to sell.

That’s all folks

Be sure to tune in at this time next year for the top 10 stories of 2013. I suspect a new tenant for Spec Building 3 will be on the list, along with nine other great stories.

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