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Business Pulse 5-18-14
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For folks like me who have always been a little awkward, what I’m about to say is the greatest thing in the world. It’s a way to get friends without even trying.
According to information being sent to my email, there are companies out there willing to give me 5,000 online friends for the low price of just $39.99. It sounds too good to be true.
Apparently, thanks to the wonders of technology, you can buy these friends and place them on your Facebook account to make you look really popular. These “real friends” maintain a realistic looking profile and even do things like make comments on other pages and “like” certain things. What an ingenious idea.
I may struggle to meet real-life friends, but for a mere $39.99, I can be an online Elvis. I can look like the most popular dude in McMinnville, all thanks to my imaginary Facebook friends.
It will be like I’m growing up all over again when people flocked to Chad Olsen because he had the nicest bike and then the nicest car, a 1965 Mustang. Now I can be the most popular kid on the block with the most Facebook friends all thanks to my trusty credit card and $39.99. God bless America.

Simpkins Energy relocating here

It was in August when Nashville-based Simpkins Energy announced it was expanding into a 15,000-square-foot building in McMinnville at 107 Magness Drive.
To make that news even better, company owner Kent Simpkins made it known last week Simpkins Energy is closing its Nashville facility and moving its entire operation to McMinnville.
“I hope to be 100 percent moved in by June 15,” Kent told me Friday. “I didn’t renew my lease in Nashville so it’s all coming there. We’re going to be busy. We have three production lines to set up and a lot of orders to fill. I have nine employees who will be coming with me.”
In talking with his employees, Kent said there are some who will be looking to relocate to McMinnville. He said one of his employees has a family member in the food service business who might be looking to open a restaurant.
As you can imagine, Kent said there will be much work involved with getting all his equipment moved down here and getting everything up and running. He expects it to be a month, maybe two, before he is ready to hire more employees.
“It’s hard to hire a high-pressure compressor guy off the street so we will have to train whoever we hire,” said Kent. When the company first announced it was expanding to McMinnville, it was said the workforce would be around 35.
Simpkins Energy specializes in manufacturing natural gas compressors that are used to power vehicles. Two of its main customers are Waste Management and Westport Cummings. Simpkins Energy works closely with local company Boles Tools in manufacturing compressor parts.

Local hiring continues

Speaking of jobs, I always like to provide information about local companies that are hiring. Morrison Tool & Fab is currently looking to hire 35 to 40 welders with pay based on experience.
“We have two really big contracts that will keep us busy for the rest of the year and bleed over a little into next year,” said plant manager Josh Livesay. “We are extremely busy now and it looks as though we will stay extremely busy.”
If you are not a skilled welder but are anxious to learn a new trade, Josh says Morrison Tool & Fab offers training at no cost. He said it usually takes two to three days to complete the training.
“Welders are the main thing we need now, but if we hire 35 to 40 more welders it’s going to lead to a few other jobs too,” said Josh.
To apply, stop by the plant at 211 Progress Boulevard at Mt. View Industrial Park.

State park gets renovated

Business Pulse is pleased to introduce the new and improved Rock Island State Park. A renovation has been completed on the park’s campground area to offer a new level of service.
A total of 50 sites were renovated with 50-amp electrical service, along with leveling and lengthening of the campsites. There are also new water hydrants, wi-fi accessibility, and restroom upgrades.
“The electrical upgrades were the big issue,” said park manager Damon Graham. “Some of the campers that come in here are really top of the line. I saw one the other day that had a gas fireplace.”
Damon said some of the campers would experience trouble with the old electrical service because it wasn’t equipped to handle the load when they were running their TVs, air conditioners and other appliances.
I guess this shows how the idea of camping has sure changed for some folks. When I think of camping, I think of my tent. But when you have a $200,000 RV, your idea of camping involves satellite TV and wi-fi connection.
Damon says the renovation is complete just in time for the state park’s busy season.
“Our campground stays pretty full from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Graham. “There are some people who enjoy camping in the fall when the leaves start to change.”
Rock Island has 60 campsites, along with 10 three-bedroom, two-bathroom cabins that are open year-round. There is also a 12-site tent camping section. Campsites can be reserved by contacting 1-800-713-6065.
I know many of us take Rock Island State Park for granted since it’s located right here in our backyard, but it’s an attraction that normally draws around 600,000 visitors a year. The 883-acre park contains scenic overlooks, waterfalls, deep pools and hiking trails.
The park’s white water sections attract professional freestyle kayakers from around the world. It also features a natural sand beach and boating access on Center Hill Lake.

New food trailer opens

If you want to sink your teeth into a delicious funnel cake, look no further than the Neighborhood Grill food trailer now open on Chancery Street. It’s located between AutoZone and C&K Donut.
Longtime restaurant employee Shannon Burton is operating the food trailer which will be open Monday thru Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I’ve worked in restaurants my whole life,” said Shannon. “For years people have been telling me to open my own place so I finally did it.”
Shannon said she has worked at our local Krystal restaurant for the past 10 years so she knows all about providing speedy service. The menu features four different types of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches along with other items like a bacon turkey wrap and chicken salad on a toasted bagel. If you want to get back to the basics, there are burgers, hotdogs, fries and tater tots.
Shannon has four different types of funnel cakes on the menu. You can get a plain funnel cake or one topped with Oreos and whipped cream.
I brought one of the Oreo cream funnel cakes back to the office Friday and thought some of the ladies here were going to bite my fingers off trying to get the dessert in their mouth. It was gone in a matter of minutes and I fortunately retained all 10 fingers.
Food trucks such as Shannon’s are certainly gaining popularity around Warren County. Shannon says the Neighborhood Grill trailer will be permanently stationed at its current spot so customers know where to find her. Tables and chairs are in place for outdoor dining.
“It’s a lot cheaper to get started like this than with a full-service restaurant,” said Shannon.
She said some customers are driving right up to her window so they don’t have to get out of their car. If you want to phone in an order in advance the number is 743-8371.

IDB news

Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Industrial Development Board was the first with Don Alexander on board as director. The meeting featured several updates from Don and former director George Burke about existing projects.
Don said construction on the DN Plastics building on Manchester Highway is going strong with plans to begin covering a portion of the building so electrical work can begin. He also said the company is so anxious to start local production that it plans to begin bringing in equipment before the building is complete.
It was also reported the $2.3 million loan for the DN Plastics building has finally been approved through Caney Fork Electric. Had the loan not been approved, well, let’s not think about what might have happened had the loan not been approved since the building is already under construction.
Burke said there has been a request from Sansin Manufacturing about getting $300,000 added to its project the company will repay through its lease agreement. Sansin is putting the finishing touches on Spec Building 3 and hopes to be operational at that location in the next month.
“They want to spend their money on presses instead of having all these additional expenses on their building,” said Burke. “If they can buy more presses, it will eventually lead to more jobs down the road.”
IDB member Herschel Wells Jr. wondered if Sansin would have additional monetary requests.
“Is this going to be it?” asked Herschel.
“If they keep coming back we might have to say no, but I don’t know if this is the point,” replied George.
“We need to find the point and decide on that now,” said Herschel.
The issue is a source of contention because the IDB has worked out lease agreements with several companies only to have those companies continue to ask for additional money. With so much money tied up in so many recent projects, the IDB doesn’t have much wiggle room anymore.
There has been an avalanche of positive job news over the past six months and that positive news is going to continue. I’m hearing word on the street about some new developments that will create even more local jobs. Rejoice!
The Industrial Development Board meeting ended with a special tribute to Susan Marttala, who has served as IDB attorney for years. Susan did this pro bono, meaning for free. She deserves a big round of applause.

Unemployment rate drops

Speaking of jobs, the most recent report released Thursday by the state shows Tennessee unemployment for April dropped to 6.3 percent. That’s down from the March rate of 6.7 percent.
For those of you keeping track at home, it’s the eighth straight month the Tennessee unemployment rate has dropped. Over the past year, state unemployment has dropped a full 2 percent from 8.3 to 6.3 percent.

Cookbooks available

The Standard still has copies available of our special, 64-page glossy cookbook featuring 380 recipes. The cookbooks are selling for just $7 and feature great-tasting recipes from cooks around Warren County. To buy a copy, stop by our office at 105 College Street during regular business hours Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

That’s all folks

That’s all the business news I could uncover. Wait, I have one more tidbit. A new yogurt shop is in the process of opening on Main Street. That should be a tasty treat.
To report business news, give me a call at 473-2191.