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Business Pulse - Progress continues for Warren County
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The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 spilled over into 2021, but with lesser impact to the local economy. Progress on several fronts was made. I met with County Executive Jimmy Haley near Christmas for this annual review. There were several highlights to 2021 as follows: Continued improvement to the Warren County jail – certified by the Tennessee Correctional Institute for the second year in a row. This is the first time this has happened. Success of drug recovery program and success of work place development program – placed over 10 inmates into paying jobs. Just received is a $200,000 work place grant to cover the cost of a TCAT welding program for inmates and a full-time counselor at the jail. The WC Jail has experienced an amazing turnaround over the last three years.

B. Warren County Animal Control and Adoption Center has been certified by the State Department of Health. The shelter thus becomes a legitimate shelter that can transport and can adopt out animals.

C. WC was recognized as the No. 1 county in the 14-county Upper Cumberland region in terms of grants. Total grants earned over the last three years were $8.9 million. These are grants achieved with the aid of UCDD.

D. The McMinnville-Warren County Senior Center was recognized as the Senior Center of the Year for 2021.

E. Federal funds received by Warren County for use with school projects is $38 million which is spread out through 2024. This is allowing major projects at the WCMS and Eastside School and saving taxpayers a lot of money. This came about under the COVID relief programs. WC Schools has taken maximum advantage of this one-time boon.

F. WC now has two UCDD transportation programs. U-Carts provides a fleet of vans to take citizens to Tennessee cities on an appointment basis, including Nashville, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, etc. UCHRA is providing buses for two routes within WC as a public transit system. Both services fill a need and are doing well. This program was fully implemented during 2021.

G. The 2020 Census was completed during 2020 and is being evaluated at this time.

H. WC was able to have a standardized HR manual developed in 2021. This becomes a guide for all WC employees and is a first-time offering.

I. WC now has a new Veterans Services Officer, Sgt. Ernie Brewington, to assist veterans to connect with eligible benefits.

The main disappointment for Warren County in 2021 is COVID-19 is still a challenge. Between vaccines and immunity borne by having COVID, the overall immunity from this virus is improving.

Employee headcounts for WC government and the Highway Department are 364. The WC school system numbers 1,358. These headcounts are viewed as stable with little growth over the last year or projected out one year.

New plans for 2022 include a new National Guard Armory to be built near Reddick-Brown Ford, a pending new WC Health Department, the new Magness Drive extension, and new grants totaling $10 million that are being sought.

The new armory, when complete, will return the existing armory back to WC where it could be an answer for jail expansion and/ or a new Health Department.

WC sales tax collections were $9.8 million in fiscal year 2019-20; $10.7 million in FY 2020-2021; and projected to be $11.3 million in FY 2021-2022. Wholesale beer (& wine) tax collections were $210,000 and mixed drink taxes were $25,000.

I asked Jimmy about the 2022 election outlook locally. The first date to pick up qualifying papers was Dec. 20, 2021. Jimmy thinks there will be an increase in candidates for the Warren County Commission. Most existing commissioners are expected to run again.

WC is mostly ADA compliant for handicapped access for the public. $260,000 was spent to comply with another $40,000 yet expected. David Britton has spearheaded this effort.

WC Schools is saving $300,000/ year from its energy saving initiative. WC followed the same program and has saved $100,000 to-date with electrical savings only.

WC is classified as an “At Risk” county which is important when writing grants. This allows for extended grant amounts in many cases.

WC does not own a water utility but works with two private utilities. Our area is getting $5.8 million for improving water/ wastewater infrastructure. This money will be allocated between the two utilities and planned for expenditure.

Because of the grant success, WC cash has mushroomed. At the end of 2020, cash = $44.7 million. At the end of 2021, cash = $47.5 million.

The outlook for tourism in WC is bullish. Some 800,000 people visited the Rock Island State Park during 2021, a 200,000 increase over 2020. Area state parks also experienced an increase. Tennessee will unveil a “Fishing in TN” promotion in the spring of 2022 that will focus on certain lakes. A “Behind the Scenes” video program will start in January with viewing spots on PBS highlighting Warren County.

There is a new housing development at Rocky River involving 200 homes that will boost our housing inventory. There is a pending project on Nashville Highway. ISHA has purchased 12,000 acres across four counties. There have been 148 new home starts in WC the last year with the trend up each quarter.

BRAC congratulates Jimmy Haley and the Warren County Commission on the success reached coming out of the COVID pandemic. Warren County is poised for an unprecedented period of growth.