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Business Pulse: 7/28/13
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When you spend 12-hour days working on the newspaper, sometimes you get a little batty. That might explain our behavior at the Standard on Thursday night when a blind taste test suddenly erupted.
It all started, the best I can tell, when someone mentioned spaghetti sauce and whether Ragu tasted better than a generic store brand. Before you know it, I was at the vending machine buying Coke and RC Cola and pouring them in cups to see if anyone could tell the difference.
Despite everyone assuring me with great confidence they could easily tell the difference between the two, that wasn’t the case once the sampling began as it ended up being an even 2-2 split.
The shaky results had our newsroom testers wanting to try more samples with publisher Pat Zechman suggesting I go out and buy pizza from Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Little Caesars to see if they could tell the difference. To me this seemed like a clear ploy to get me to buy pizza.
It was also suggested that perhaps staff members could not tell the difference between Budweiser and Michelob. This seemed like a plan to get me to buy beer, which I will not support in this column.
Since we’re on the topic of taste tests, here’s one product I am NOT eager to try. It comes from Rocket Fizz Soda Pop, the company which is already known for its buffalo chicken wing soda.
Looking to build on its storied tradition of unique flavors, Rocket Fizz Soda unveiled a new flavor in June. It was called – and I’m not making this up – ranch dressing soda.
The best I can figure, this new flavor was designed for people who love ranch dressing so much, they want to drink it a 12-ounce can at a time. I’ve never personally had that desire, but to each his own.
Based on sales, it appears the vast majority agreed with me that ranch dressing would not exactly make a refreshing soda. Non-existent sales resulted in the product getting pulled in less than a month.
I guess this is proof Americans at least have some limitations when it comes to our diet. We will eat frog legs and chicken livers, but we draw the line when it comes to drinking ranch dressing.

Care clinic
opens Monday

What was once the Social Security office has been quickly transformed into Fast Pace Urgent Care Clinic, a new medical facility that opens Monday at 8 a.m.
What makes this new clinic unique is the after-hours care that’s available, along with the fact no appointment is necessary any time of the day or night. The hours are Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.
So far, the clinics have been wildly successful. There were seven Fast Pace locations at the beginning of the year and now there are 15. Company CEO Rob Pantoja told me during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, there are plans for two more clinics in Fayetteville and Union City with a separate contract in the works to buy three other existing clinics. That would bring the total to 20.
“There are so many urgent care clinics in the urban areas that are fighting for patients and we didn’t want to enter that battle,” said Pantoja in saying his company is concentrating on more rural locations. “With us, you can have an office visit that’s the cost of a regular physician, not the cost of an emergency room. Our care combines convenience and low cost.”
Fast Pace Urgent Care has nine exam rooms, including two that are decorated for kids, and an X-ray room. There is a stationary bike that is used to conduct EKGs. The medical staff can also give IVs and apply splints.
All medical records are kept electronically. Pantoja says this allows the staff to view your records, if necessary, at any Fast Pace clinic. This can be a consideration with 15 locations already in operation and more on the way.
“We provide care a whole lot better and a whole lot faster than the ER,” said regional director Sandy Jones. “We are generally well-received by the emergency rooms because we handle some of the little things to take some of the burden off the ERs. And we have cash prices if you prefer to pay that way.”
Jones said she left a 20-year career at Vanderbilt flying in LifeFlight helicopters to join the staff at Fast Pace. The local clinic has hired eight people, four on each shift.
Among the visitors at the Fast Pace clinic Friday morning was company mascot Stitches, a dog.
“We have to be careful with how much we bring Stitches around,” joked Pantoja. “If people see him too much, they think we’re a veterinarian.”

Will Bridgestone
workers strike?

With contract negotiations between Bridgestone and its union workforce still under way Saturday at press time, a work stoppage could be possible. 
According to Local Steel Workers 1155 representative Van Tenpenny, 99 percent of Bridgestone workers have voted to go on strike if an equitable agreement isn’t reached with the company.
“We have agreed to work under the 2009 contract on an hour-to-hour basis,” said Tenpenny after the 2009 contract expired Friday at midnight. “They went up to the wire negotiating and the company gave us a big proposal that is still being studied.”
Tenpenny said things are in limbo while the negotiating committee looks over the company’s proposal. Once that is complete, likely this weekend, a number of things could happen.
First, and least palatable, is there could be a break down in talks and an immediate work stoppage at several Bridgestone plants around the country.
Second, could be a continuation of good-faith talks while workers continue on the hour-to-hour contract.
Third, would be sending the proposal back to the plants for approval from the rank and file.
Along with the Morrison Bridgestone plant, which is somewhat tied to its sister plant in Bloomington, Ill., by a type of labor agreement, there are also ties with six other plants that are on a separate master contract.
I am hopeful this labor issue can be resolved and Bridgestone continues to be a vibrant part of our industrial community in Warren County.

rate on rise

With the economy seemingly on the rebound, I thought we were past this point, but the unemployment numbers released Thursday by the state were not good for Tennessee.
The unemployment rate increased in 91 counties and stayed the same in four counties. It did not decrease in any Tennessee county over the past month.
In Warren County, unemployment took a pretty big leap to return to double digits at 10.4 percent. It was 9.5 percent the previous month.
The unemployment rate for the nation is 7.6 percent. For Tennessee, it is 8.3 percent.
I thought Warren County’s days of double-digit unemployment were behind us and smooth sailing was in the forecast. I guess that smooth sailing has been interrupted by a few rocky waters.

River Park eyes
faster ER service

In its bid to improve customer satisfaction and wait times at its emergency room, River Park Hospital has a new FastTrack program in place. FastTrack has added five beds to the ER and patients will be sorted into one of two categories – major ailments or minor ailments – once they arrive.
“Our acute, more serious patients will continue to be seen in the general ER,” said River Park CEO Tim McGill. “But the minor injuries, something like a little league baseball injury, those injuries will go to FastTrack. They don’t require the same level of equipment or the same level of care as our more serious patients.”
McGill says the overall goal is to reduce patient wait time and FastTrack has been very successful in doing that since it was implemented last month. He says River Park has the largest ER in a 45-mile radius so it can become very busy at times, and it’s impossible to predict when.
“The ER is not like a restaurant where everybody is in the same boat and waiting for a table,” said McGill. “Some people are in very serious condition while others are not.”
Those patients who are not in serious condition can be seen in FastTrack, get quality treatment, and be sent home. The goal is to have a wait time no longer than 27 minutes from the time the patient walks in the door till he or she is seen by a provider.
“Being in the ER is a stressful time,” said McGill. “A lot of times patients come with their family members so it’s a stressful time for them too. When an accident happens and you have to visit the ER, you don’t want to spend a lot of time waiting.”
I love the FastTrack concept at River Park and, by all accounts, it appears to be working very effectively. It’s another way our hospital is working to improve the level of care available in this community and that benefits all of us.

State No. 1 in

Here’s a quick blurb I wanted to convey since I’m always proclaiming Tennessee the automotive capital of the world. For the fourth year in a row, the state has been ranked No. 1 in the nation in terms of its automotive manufacturing strength.
The rating was released last week by Business Facilities, a national economic development publication.
Tennessee is home to Nissan, Volkswagen and General Motors facilities. The state has more than 900 auto manufacturers and suppliers statewide.
Just last year, 44 new automotive plants created 6,662 new jobs in Tennessee, according to state records.
On top of that, two companies announced plans last month to create a combined 1,700 new auto-related jobs in the state. Nissan says it will add 900 new jobs to build the Rogue, while Magneti Marelli will create 800 new jobs in Pulaski for automotive lighting.

Coin shop
doubles in size

Warren County Coin has been open for two years in the back portion of Plaza Shopping Center. Owner Joe Smith must be doing something right because his shop recently doubled in size.
“I’ve expanded into the old King’s Den spot,” said Joe. “When they moved, we just knocked down a wall and expanded into their old location. People are looking to buy gold and silver. And I’m looking to buy gold and silver myself. I pay the highest price in town.”
Joe has a shop filled with rare coins. He even has a half-cent coin that was made in 1826. The coin has since gone out of circulation because a half-cent today sure isn’t worth what it used to be. However, the half-cent coin, should you find one, is worth around $150.
Joe says he’s the only store in town that offers supplies to coin collectors and paper money collectors. He says his customers come from as far away as Cookeville, Manchester and Smithville.
Joe has served in the U.S. Navy and has amassed coins from around the world. In addition to coins, he will also buy Civil War memorabilia.
“I can tell times must be tough because people have been coming in here wanting to sell everything,” said Joe. “I’ll give it a look and see if I can buy it.”
Warren County Coin can be reached at 474-COIN. It’s located in Suite 119.

That’s all folks

May the force be with you. Phone in business tips by calling 473-2191.