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Business Pulse: 5-25-14
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Quick, name a business that would be a great addition to downtown McMinnville? If you said a frozen yogurt shop, give yourself a round of applause.
Renovation work is under way at 104 W. Main Street where Topz Frozen Yogurt Cafe will be opening in just over a month. July 4 weekend has been targeted for the grand opening.
Josh and Monica Baker are opening the business with partners Matt and Anna Sands. Josh said he thinks a frozen yogurt shop will be a hit for Main Street.
“This is becoming a big thing all around the country,” said Josh. “I know there are two stores in Cookeville and several in Murfreesboro. We feel like this will be something good for downtown that will be fun to do.”
The first thing I asked was if the store was going to offer all those tasty toppings to dump on top of the frozen yogurt. Josh said there would be a wide selection of toppings and yogurt.
“We’ll have 40 to 50 different toppings,” said Josh. “You can get as much or as little as you like. We’ll have everything from chocolate chips to gummy worms. We will also offer some fresh fruit toppings. As for the yogurt, we will have 18 different flavors. We will have three flavors with a sugar-free option and we will even have a dairy-free option.”
The opening date is not set in stone because there is still much work to do inside the building before it’s ready for customers. Josh said he is hoping to hit the target date of July 4, but also realizes there could be a slight delay.
Looking down the road, I can see the yogurt shop being really popular when the Park Theatre gets up and running. Everyone will want to stop by and grab a frosty treat before or after a show.
This is a business I believe will do well. I’ll provide more information when the doors are ready to open.

Local jobless rate plummets

I told you last week about how the state unemployment rate dropped from March to April. The county-by-county figures released Thursday by the state are even more impressive when it comes to Warren County.
According to the state, Warren County unemployment has dropped to 6.4 percent, which is down from the March rate of 7.7 percent. Yes folks, that’s a 1.3 percent drop in one month.
The unemployment rate is now lower than 5 percent in 14 Tennessee counties. As for Warren County’s rate of 6.4 percent, that’s pretty impressive.
I don’t have an entire afternoon to devote to researching the local unemployment rate, but I’d venture to guess the local rate hasn’t been this low since before Carrier closed 10 years ago. If I ever have four or five hours to kill, I’d be interested in finding out when the last time our unemployment has been 6.4 percent.

Economic seminar touts tourism

It had been over a year since I attended an economic development seminar so I jumped at the opportunity to hear economic strategist Del Boyette talk Friday at the TSU Nursery Research Center.
One of the things Boyette emphasized when talking about our community is our need for a quality hotel, which is something I’ve been mentioning off and on in columns for years.
“If you’re going to have a strong tourism economy, you have to have places for people to stay,” said Boyette. “Tourism is a big part of the global economy and a big part of the U.S. economy. In the global economy, 9.5 percent of all jobs are related to tourism. But when people come into town, they have to have a place to stay.”
Boyette mentioned the need for Warren County to have a new hotel again and again. At one point he even said, “I know I’m harping on this.”
Boyette praised the “Bluegrass Underground” concert series as an authentic tourism experience you can’t get anywhere else. He said the series is making great strides by appearing on PBS and by attracting the group Widespread Panic.
But he said the performers who play “Bluegrass Underground” and the fans who attend it would have a much nicer experience if Warren County had an upscale hotel.
He said Warren County should look to capitalize on surrounding attractions and said we’re not too far away from Nashville to appeal to people who are visiting that city. He said nearby Bonnaroo would be a great opportunity for Warren County to make a huge economic splash, but said a Google search of our community has proven that might not necessarily be the case.
“You don’t want to be known as a speed trap if you’re trying to recruit tourism,” said Boyette referring to Internet posts about Warren County’s heavy law enforcement presence on the bypass during Bonnaroo weekend.
As for ways to make the local economy grow, Boyette gave a couple examples a how small ideas ballooned into tremendous business opportunities. He said his hometown of Bentonville, Ark., benefits from being the headquarters of retail giant Walmart, which ended up locating there almost on a whim. Boyette said Sam Walton was operating a Ben Franklin store in Newport, Ark., but left that store and moved further west when his rent tripled.
“He left where he was doing business because they created an unfriendly business environment for him,” said Boyette. “So he wanted to be closer to family he had in Oklahoma and moved to Bentonville.”
Boyette said the positive environment in Bentonville allowed Walmart to become the largest retailer in the world.
In discussing the need for innovation, Boyette pointed to Willamette Valley, Oregon. He said that region did not grow grapes until 40 years ago when someone realized it was on the same latitude as a popular grape-growing region in France.
“They had never grown a grape there and now 40 years later they are producing the best Pinot noir in the world,” said Boyette.
He emphasized innovation and entrepreneurship are now crucial economic drivers. He pointed to California as one example of an economy that relies heavily on technology and new ways of doing things. He said manufacturing companies left California because it’s not conducive to do that type of business in the state. However, other businesses in Silicon Valley have flourished.
In closing, Boyette offered this quote on innovation which I find appropriate. “It can only happen if you do things the way they have not always been done before.”

Let’s support Farmers Market

Believe it or not, we’re barreling toward June which means the Warren County Farmers Market is about to be bursting with activity.
Market manager Mary Cantrell said last weekend saw increased crowds with the strawberry harvest and said four of her vendors completely sold out of strawberries. Squash is next on the horizon as vegetables begin to come into season.
Mary wants to get the word out about the expanded hours which are now in effect at the Farmers Market. In addition to being open every Saturday from 6 a.m. to noon, the Farmers Market is now open every Wednesday from 6 a.m. to noon.
Beginning in June, the Farmers Market will be open on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 4 to 8 p.m. This will be for June, July and August.
If you want locally grown fruits and vegetables, our Farmers Market is the place to be. It promises to be an exciting summer at the market with corn day in early July, watermelon day in August, a fall festival at the end of September, and an apple dessert day in October.

RadioShack update

It’s been two months since RadioShack announced plans to close up to 1,100 stores. Since that time, several folks have asked me about the status of our beloved RadioShack at Three Star Mall.
I haven’t been able to get any further information about which stores are scheduled to close, but apparently The Wall Street Journal has. I don’t know why RadioShack executives would take calls from The Wall Street Journal, but ignore calls from Southern Standard.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, RadioShack is struggling to gain approval from its major creditors to close so many stores. Since the lenders are not on board, it’s thrown a wrench into RadioShack’s plans.
Specifically, under its loan and credit line agreements, RadioShack needs consent from its lenders to close more than 200 stores per year. Agreeing to the store closing plan would seem like a smart move for the creditors, however some lenders are hoping to receive a portion of the cash RadioShack would free up from liquidating nearly 25 percent of its inventory.
Others are concerned, according to The Wall Street Journal, the store closing plan doesn’t go far enough. RadioShack seems to have a problem of too many chiefs and not enough Indians. If the company has expressed a need to close 1,100 underperforming stores, but can only close 200 a year, I believe that’s going to hurt its efforts to stay afloat.

That’s all folks

After you shake off the cobwebs of a long Memorial Day weekend, give me a call with your business tips at 473-2191.