I thought about getting a note from home so I could opt out of writing today’s Business Pulse, but why be difficult?
There’s way too much business news to report not to have a column, so let’s get started at one of Warren County’s favorite grocery stores. I’m pleased to announce Kroger is in the midst of a $1.7 million remodeling project.
One of the most noticeable areas of improvements is the produce department where a wood-type floor has been added to create a more home-style feel. Work to the produce department isn’t finished, however, as the floral shop will be relocated and upgraded and more items will be added to produce.
Upgrades will include new cases, coolers, décor and display features throughout the store. The pharmacy and customer service desk will also be included in the storewide project.
“We will be expanding dairy with new coolers and we will also be adding square footage to meat,” said Kroger store lead Billy Council.
Most of the remodeling work is taking place at night so it won’t interfere with shoppers. Billy said it is hoped everything will be complete in time for Thanksgiving. That timetable exemplifies how extensive of a project this is.
I asked Billy the one question everyone always asks me when it comes to Kroger. Are there any plans to make the store bigger? Billy said unfortunately there are no plans to increase overall square footage at our Kroger at this time.
If we’re talking about the largest retail chain stores in Warren County, I’d say Walmart would have to be No. 1.
Rounding out the top four in my unofficial ranking would be Kroger at No. 2, Dollar General at No. 3 with a combined 12 stores, and Lowe’s at No. 4.
So if my ranking system has any merit, two of the top four retail chains in Warren County are in the process of capital improvement projects because Lowe’s is expanding. As you’re facing the front of Lowe’s, there’s currently an expansion taking place to the right of the lumber entrance.
Finding out exactly what’s going on didn’t prove entirely fruitful since local store employees at Lowe’s aren’t allowed to make a comment to the media. That left me calling the Lowe’s corporate office and I’m pleased to say I did get a return phone call on Friday.
What I learned is the Lowe’s expansion is moving along very rapidly and the plan is to have a grand opening celebration for the new area in mid-September.
What I didn’t learn is exactly what would be offered in the new area. The Lowe’s spokesman who called me said the company isn’t ready to disclose exact details, but he did say it would be a new offering for the store.
I’m nothing if not a creature of curiosity, and I’m prone to wild speculation, so I did a little digging. This may not be accurate, but it’s my belief Lowe’s will be adding tool rentals to its offerings at our McMinnville store.
I guess we’ll have to wait another month or so to see if this guess is correct, but a few other Lowe’s in Middle Tennessee have decided to add tool rentals to their stores.
The tool rentals at other locations include many items like power saws, portable generators, ladders, augers, pressure washers, chainsaws, welding equipment and more. The thinking is some of these tools can be expensive, especially if you plan to use it for one job and then be done with it.
Two big stories were revealed Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Industrial Development Board. One is that a South Korean company has been in town to tour Spec Building No. 4 at the Mt. View Industrial Park in Morrison.
If you recall, the Spec Building is close to move-in ready with 50,000 square feet of space and a ceiling height of 42 feet. A company looking to locate in Middle Tennessee wouldn’t have much work to do to become operational at that facility.
This South Korean company is looking to move fast, according to Industrial Development Board member Jeff Golden, who said the company does injection molding and makes gas tanks for the automotive industry. Two of its big customers are Nissan and General Motors, which is why it has an interest in Warren County.
“They are looking for a central location and seem very interested,” said Jeff.
The company would employ 80 to start and would be looking to expand its workforce and its facility rapidly. Jeff said the company plans include expanding the building to 200,000 square feet and increasing the workforce to 250 employees in about three years, if all goes well.
Fortunately, the Industrial Board had the vision to construct a Spec Building that is easily expandable and it could go up to 200,000 square feet.
Jeff said three representatives came to tour the Spec Building and they asked questions about schools in the area, available housing, restaurants, and the starting salary for this area. Jeff said company officials indicated they would be paying a better than normal starting wage for our county should they choose to locate here.
Tullahoma is also said to be in the running.
Has new owner
I mentioned in last week’s column that a local buyer was believed to be highly interested in the old Metal Products Building at 300 Garfield Street, which is also the old Genesco building.
At Thursday’s Industrial Board meeting, my suspicions were confirmed. IDB members voted to sell the property to local developer Keith Bouldin, who owns property on the other side of Garfield Street.
“The first job will be to clean it up,” said Keith when contacted Friday. “It’s in pretty bad shape and we’re going to have to spend quite a bit of money and do quite a lot of work. The first thing is going to be to put a new roof on it.”
The Industrial Board had previously owned the property. IDB director Don Alexander acknowledged much work needed to be done on it and said, “I think it’s time we let Keith and his family own this building.”
IDB member Scot MacDonald toured the building recently and confirmed it was in poor condition.
“I don’t see anyone moving in without the roof being completely replaced,” said Scot. “I certainly wouldn’t put any equipment investment in there without a new roof.”
Keith said he expects renovations to take at least six months on the 53,000-square-foot building.
“I want to make it presentable and go from there,” said Keith. “Ideally, I’d love to see manufacturing there, but I can’t say for sure what it will be. We get calls from people seeking all different types of square footage so this will be something else that we have available.”
Speaking personally, I’m glad to see the Bouldin family is buying the property and making an investment in our community. I think it will look great when they’re done.
Making a return
Folks in the Blues Hill area are well familiar with Travis Owens-Whitehead, who has long operated country stores in that part of the county.
Travis moved to Memphis for three years from 2017 till the end of 2020 and told horror stories about living there. He said crime is rampant and he had serious concerns of getting shot while simply driving down the interstate.
So Travis has returned to Warren County with his husband, P.J. Owens-Whitehead. Together with their daughters, they are reopening Owens Market but at a new location at 7089 Short Mountain Road. Opening date will be the first week of September.
“We have been working on the building for months and getting things ready to reopen,” said Travis, who was one of the original owners of the Owens Market that opened in 2006. “Owens Market is known for our pizza, burgers and wings, along with wonderful customer service.”
Travis says he is excited to see so many familiar faces and he and P.J. look forward to seeing a lot of new faces too. They say the new location will be transformed into a good, old-fashioned county store where you can get sliced lunch meats and cheeses along with other great food items. The biggest change for Owens Market is the store will be closed on Sundays so they can attend church and spend time with their girls and their dog, Sir Princeton. The store phone number is (931) 939-4500.
It seems like everyone who wants a job has a job, but the state is still releasing unemployment figures so I’ll continue reporting them.
According to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennes-see’s statewide unemployment rate for July was 4.7%. That’s a drop from June’s rate of 4.9%.
It’s interesting to note Tennessee’s unemployment rate has been at 5.1%, or lower, for the last seven months. In March 2020, the last month before COVID-19 business closures impacted the economy, Tennessee’s unemployment rate was a scant 4%.
That’s all folks
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