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Business Pulse: 4-20-14
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I hope you and your family are planning a giant egg hunt today in celebration of Easter. But if you’re hunting for business news, there’s no need to look around the yard. It’s right here in the pages of your hometown Southern Standard.
Along with Easter, prom season is upon us as WCHS students will be going to the prom next weekend. Just be careful not to ask Miss America to the big dance.
If you’re Pennsylvania high school student Patrick Farves, such a request will get you in-school suspension for three days. Farves popped the question while Miss America Nina Davuluri was at Central York High School giving a speech on diversity. Farves asked her to the dance and even gave her a flower.
School officials say Farves was only being a disruption and they aren’t going to tolerate such foolish behavior. I say give the kid a chance to land a date with Miss America.
Speaking of end-of-the-school-year events, Bryant University in Rhode Island is preparing for its graduation ceremony by issuing this reminder. Students are forbidden from taking selfies of themselves while getting their diploma from university president Ronald Machtley.
University officials say they are trying to learn from their mistakes as selfies were allowed last year but it only served to bog down an already long ceremony as nearly every senior opted to make a selfie with the president.
I say what’s the rush? Students waited four years for this day and spent thousands of dollars on tuition. Give them an extra 10 seconds for a selfie if that’s what they want.

IDB hires
new director

The McMinnville-Warren County Industrial Development Board has hired a new director. It’s Nashville resident Don Alexander, who is scheduled to start May 1.
Alexander will be replacing George Burke, who was hired in April 2013 on an interim basis. Burke had previously been IDB director in the 1980s and landed some major industrial employers for our community.
When Burke took the job last year and got his feet wet again, I think he rediscovered how much he likes the work. He played a crucial role in negotiating a deal to bring DN Plastics from Michigan to Morrison, and he also helped Sansin Manufacturing relocate from the old Carrier building to Spec Building 3.
But, I think the volume of work caught up to Burke in a hurry and he encouraged IDB members to restart the search to find his replacement. When the IDB didn’t appear in a hurry to do this, Burke brought a résumé to an IDB meeting and said, “This looks like a guy you should hire.” It was Don Alexander.
IDB chairman Joe Pugh says Alexander was officially hired Thursday. He has six months to relocate from Nashville to Warren County. Burke will stay on board to provide some guidance for Alexander as he learns the ropes.
“George is open to help however Don needs,” said Pugh. “That may be 30 days. That may be 60 days.”
In all the excitement Thursday, I wasn’t able to sit down with Alexander for an interview, but he was kind enough to email me his work history, which includes experience working for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
While working with the state, Alexander says his responsibilities were marketing Tennessee and consulting with prospective industrial interests. This sounds promising.
Alexander also has experience working for HCA International, General Motors/ GMAC, and Home Savings of America in Inglewood, Calif.
The past several years Alexander has worked in the construction-related industry, which includes work with the following companies: Tennessee Building Products, Tennessee Glass, and Sears Contract Sales.
George did a great job in his year as industrial recruiter. Here’s hoping Don jumps in and continues the momentum.

Let there
be pretzels

There’s good news for folks who love the great taste of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. The company is in the process of locating a store inside Walmart where the portrait studio used to be.
For those who may be wondering, there are more than 1,500 Auntie Anne’s locations in 48 states and 30 countries.
The company is expected to open its local store this week. I had originally heard it would be opening Tuesday, then heard that opening date might be delayed a few days. Either way, opening day appears very soon in the future.
The Auntie Anne’s company has an interesting start. Company founders Anne and Jonas Beiler got their start in 1988 by selling pretzels at a farmers market in Pennsylvania. They were a bit surprised at how much customers raved about the great-tasting pretzels.
Now 26 years later, Auntie Anne stores can be found almost anywhere. The company says it commonly locates stores in malls, airports, universities and inside Walmarts.
As for the pretzels themselves, they are available in all different sizes and flavors. They are baked fresh all day.
Flavors include cinnamon sugar, sour cream and onion, and even pepperoni. There are pretzel hot dogs and the Auntie Anne’s lemonade is said to be bold and tasty.
Auntie Anne’s has a prime spot inside the busiest retail store in McMinnville. Provided the pretzels aren’t outrageously priced, I think the store will do well. I can already hear my kids asking as we make our way out the door, “Dad, can we get a pretzel?” I might have to start parking by the other entrance.

Duplexes coming
to N. Chancery

As I mentioned two weeks ago, there is dirt work taking place on N. Chancery Street across from Neil Helton State Farm. At the McMinnville Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Monday, we learned property owner Donna Vaughn plans to build six duplexes there for a total of 12 units.
Kenny Sadler went before the Board of Zoning Appeals on behalf of Vaughn to request a special exception to build the duplexes because the property is zoned C2. This zoning allows for commercial use, but not multi-family housing.
N. Chancery Street property owner Lanny Watson was at the meeting and he voiced his objections to the move. After the board approved the request to allow the duplexes to be built, Watson was more upset.
“They are cramming more people in there and neglecting the infrastructure,” said Lanny. “The city voted to widen that road years ago, then decided not to do it. What they told us was it cost too much and the city didn’t have the money. They didn’t have $2 million to widen the road, but they sure have $2 million for Park Theatre. Now I’m not against Park Theatre, but how do you have money for that project and not the other. This road needs to be wider and it needs to have a sidewalk.”
Lanny said N. Chancery Street is a high-traffic area, yet pedestrians are forced to walk in a ditch. He said the road gets much foot traffic because there are a number of people who walk to Walmart.
“A few years ago the city got a sidewalk grant to build a sidewalk around the Civic Center,” said Lanny. “Why do they need a sidewalk there when they already have a walking trail? Why don’t they look into a grant to build a sidewalk on N. Chancery Street?”
The Board of Zoning Appeals includes members Jim Brock, Jerry Williamson, Tom Ward, Joey Haston, and chairman David Marttala.
“I think we are dealing with two issues,” said Williamson. “I agree the street is a problem, but I don’t think it’s fair to penalize someone from using their property because of the street.”
Added Marttala, “It’s my understanding that if any city resident wants a sidewalk, they can provide the material and the city provides the labor. If property owners are concerned with the need for a sidewalk, they can get together and have a sidewalk. This body is not in charge of the roads so we can’t address that issue today.”
Watson says he has questions about how this process worked.
“They have been over there moving dirt for two months and they’re just now asking for permission to build duplexes,” said Lanny. “It looks like they already had their minds made up if you ask me.”
In making the request before the board Monday, Sadler said he doesn’t think 12 duplexes will greatly increase the traffic burden on N. Chancery.
“The property is zoned commercial and we are actually wanting to put residential use in a commercial zone which should help from a traffic standpoint rather than hurt,” said Sadler. “A commercial development on that property would create a lot more peak-hour traffic than the duplexes would.”

More news
from IDB

Industrial Development Board chairman Joe Pugh announced he is stepping down from his role as leader of the board.
“I’m going out with George,” said Joe referring to director George Burke.
Before she could object, IDB member Sandra Haynes was nominated as chairperson and unanimously approved by the board. Before the dust could settle on that vote, IDB member Tommy Foster was nominated as vice chairman and was unanimously approved by the board in a lightning-quick vote.
Joked County Commissioner Les Trotman in watching the proceedings, “That’s the quickest railroad I’ve ever seen.”
Speaking of railroads, Burke gave a brief report about ongoing industrial projects. The biggest one is the 110,000-square-foot building being constructed for DN Plastics in Morrison.
“They have completed the concrete work and are getting ready to erect the steel,” said George. “The railroad engineers have a design for the rail spur so that is moving along too. June 13 is the date Mr. Agrawal wants product flowing out of the plant. The building may not be completely finished at that point, but he wants product flowing out.”
I find June 13 to be a very ambitious date for DN Plastics to be up and running, but it would be nice to see. Owner Raj Agrawal has said he will create 100 jobs so I’d like to see those jobs start developing sooner rather than later.

getting better

According to information released Thursday from the state, Tennessee’s unemployment rate has dropped for the seventh straight month.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for March is 6.7 percent, which is .2 below the rate for February. The national unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.
If you’re looking for a snapshot of Tennessee unemployment, over the past year our state rate has decreased from 8.3 percent to 6.7 percent. The number of unemployed people in Tennessee is 203,800, which the state says is the lowest number since June 2008.
We are clearly headed in the right direction on the back of the automotive industry. Of course Tennessee will be another Detroit in 30 years when all of these plants leave.

That’s all folks

Enjoy spending time with your family on this Easter holiday and phone in your business tips first thing Monday at 473-2191.