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Business Pulse - Old mill waiting for new life
Rock Island - old Mill - main photo.jpg
The old cotton mill at Rock Island State Park is once again the focus on renovation efforts. An inn with conference rooms and a restaurant has been discussed in the past.

State officials don’t want to wait another cotton-picking minute to begin considering their options for the old cotton mill at Rock Island State Park.

The old mill has been a focus of revitalization efforts for years, to the point many local and state officials had their picture made in front of the building some two years ago. Based on conversations at that time, the plan was to convert the historic structure into a warm and welcoming inn, complete with restaurant and outdoor dining area overlooking the soothing water.

However, those plans didn’t get finalized before Gov. Bill Haslam left office, essentially knocking efforts all the way back to Square 1 with a new administration.

“It was almost to the announcement point and then we had the governor’s election and all the seats changed hands,” said Industrial Development Board member Jeff Golden who has been an integral part of discussions.

The old mill commanded its share of attention during Thursday’s monthly IDB meeting with Golden adding, “Rock Island is the only state park in the state without conference rooms or meeting space. It’s shocking how solid the materials are inside that building. It’s still in good shape.”

IDB director Don Alexander said both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation want to see new life injected into the old mill as a way to stimulate even more interest in our picturesque state park.

Rock Island State Park attracts some 600,000 visitors annually.

“There are some real heavyweights who live in Rock Island or who own property there,” said Golden, indicating they have influence in Nashville.

Judging by the sheer size of the old mill, it looks like it could easily accommodate 36 guest rooms on the top two floors, with conference rooms and a restaurant on the ground floor. Such a facility, should it materialize, would take our state park on a rocket ride to a new atmosphere of hospitality. It would benefit the entire county in the process.

Among other supporters, this project has received the Business Pulse 5 Star Endorsement, the most prestigious endorsement in the Western Hemisphere.

KFC nears


In a popular folk tale that’s been around for centuries, Chicken Little is known to run around crying “The sky is falling.” For fans of KFC, it may seem like the sky has been falling in Warren County for the past two months as our KFC has been closed since Nov. 4 for remodeling.

Apparently it’s been a looooong two months as I’ve been asked frequently when KFC is reopening. So has KFC manager David Owens.

“I probably get 30 calls a day,” said David.

A reopening schedule was in place, but it appears like it’s going to have to be modified due to issues with new equipment. A couple key pieces of equipment still have not arrived and are expected Monday, while other equipment on site is not working properly.

David is still holding out hope KFC can open this Friday, but he’s not sure. He said a determination will have to be made after evaluating their progress this Tuesday. If KFC does not open Friday, he said it would be next Monday before the restaurant reopens.

If you want to be the first in line to sample our new and improved KFC, never fear. All the latest developments will be posted on our website and on our Facebook page.


I’ve received recurring questions about the status of a massive new development on the bypass at its intersection with Spring Street. Plans were submitted to the city in September for a 48,000-square-foot store with gas pumps, along with a separate 12,000-square-foot store.

Other smaller stores would be scattered around the proposed shopping center.

In an email earlier this month, one of the developers said he is still working on this project. It remains active and very much alive.

From what I’ve gathered, a source of delay is in obtaining a Traffic Impact Study which must be submitted for approval to TDOT. Since all of the properties in the development will be using a traffic signal on Spring Street for access, TDOT wants to ensure vehicles will not get backed up and disrupt traffic flow on the bypass.

TDOT traffic engineer Landon Castleberry has provided his input and said he would be willing to discuss the traffic issue further if needed.

This would be a massive new shopping center for McMinnville and I hope it materializes. It looks like we’re still a little bit away from an announcement.

Good mall news 

Hits the pavement

Perhaps it was a social experiment to see if mall visitors paid any attention to the surface on which they were driving. Or perhaps it was a repair job gone horribly wrong. I’m still not sure.

Whatever the case, the main entrance to Three Star Mall is now paved and its drivability ranks extremely high on a scale of 1 to 10.

The new paving job resolves an issue which, like an annoying cough, had lingered for months. Now the mall can be proud of its main entrance and move past the days of simulating the Wild West.

As for other mall news, I do have this update. It was announced in August that Goody’s would be changing its name to Gordmans sometime at the start of the year. In talking to store officials on Friday, I now have a more firm timeline.

The grand opening of Gordmans is scheduled for March 31. Our Goody’s is expected to close about a week or 10 days before that date to facilitate the transition. 

The end result will be a Gordmans store that still carries clothing but is very heavy on home décor items, which are popular in today’s market. I’m a Goody’s fan, but I’m eager to see how the new Gordmans store takes shape.

If you

Build it …

Much has been said in recent editions of this paper, and in this very column, about the need for more housing in Warren County.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this need is to describe the Nashville and Murfreesboro areas as a bucket. I’m a big fan of buckets and have buckets of all different sizes stored in my shed. Please don’t break in and steal my buckets.

Every bucket has a point where it can’t hold anymore and stuff begins spilling out. That point would be now for the people trying to live in Nashville and Murfreesboro. Those areas are so packed they can’t hold any more people so they’re spilling out into surrounding areas like beautiful Warren County.

We’d love to welcome these people with open arms, but there’s one little problem. We don’t have the housing available for them to live. The lack of available homes in Warren County has been a topic I’ve addressed for at least a year. And this includes the lack of quality apartments.

Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander is certainly aware of this shortcoming and he’s working to find a solution. Don met with a home builder on Friday who is considering this area for a number of projects.

“He’s looking for places his company might start building,” said Don. ‘We would really reap a lot of benefits from these homes.”

The time for growth is now, should the county agree to accept this mission. Don said this builder has already saturated the Rutherford County market and is looking for other pastures to graze. 

The first challenge is land acquisition. Once that is accomplished, Don said this company typically builds four houses at a time for efficiency.

“That way the subcontractors can move from one house to another without a lot of down time,” said Don.

From everything I can gather, our Industrial Development Board is in tune with the needs of our community and is doing a first-rate job.

That’s all folks

Thanksgiving is a thing of the past, but we’re still enjoying a feast of business news. If you have information to report, send me an email at