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Business Pulse: 8-17-14
Homeland Community Bank held a grand opening ceremony on Friday for its new bank branch at Warren County Middle School. Pictured are students who will work in the bank, Clay Eckenrod and Molly Hale.

If Warren County Middle School students are looking to get into mischief, they now have a bank conveniently located on campus to rob.
I say that only in jest as an icebreaker because I’m pleased to announce Homeland Community Bank has taken the initiative and opened a bank inside the WCMS cafeteria. Bank officials joined community leaders on Friday for a grand opening celebration.
The bank is a great idea on a couple of levels. First, it aims to help students understand the importance of saving and properly managing their finances. Second, it gives nine WCMS students the chance to work at the bank and gain valuable experience.
Homeland Community Bank president and CEO Ray Talbert said this project started 1 ½ years ago and is the result of a collaborative effort between bank employees and school officials.
“I hope this is an exciting day for the students,” said Ray. “The FDIC encourages local banks to partner with schools to teach children about finances.”
I think this new bank branch at WCMS is a tremendous idea. This may seem like common sense to mature adults, but some kids don’t understand you have to spend less than you earn or you start to get into trouble. If you buy things you can’t afford by putting them on a credit card, you get into trouble.
As for specifics of the new branch, it will be open on Tuesdays during lunch. It will be operated by three students per lunch period along with a WCMS faculty sponsor and a Homeland Bank employee.
Students who open an account will be given a deposit slip so each side has a record of the transaction. Each student who saves $25 by May 8 will be entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini. One iPad will be given away per grade.
“This is a very progressive step and it reinforces the fact we have very bright, very capable young people here in Warren County,” said School Board member Bill Zechman.
WCMS students involved with the bank operation include president Molly Hale, vice president Clay Eckenrod, CFO Marynia Harris, and student workers Ireland Moore, Ellie Noblin, Paola Campos, Savannah Saylors, Eli Jones, and Jacqueline Beccera.

Pizza Place Coming to Plaza

Plaza Shopping Center visitors may have noticed construction activity taking place inside the old Gondola Restaurant, which was most recently a Mexican restaurant.
I stopped in Friday to see what’s going on and discovered local resident Jeff Acre is in the process of opening a pizza parlor called Kenzeroni’s Pizza. He hopes to be open in about a month.
In addition to pizza, the menu will feature subs, wings, salad, and he’ll also have a salad bar. Jeff says he has a few ideas which will set him apart from other pizza restaurants.
“Being in the shopping center, we hope to have a lot of foot traffic so we’ll sell pizza by the slice,” said Jeff. “I know one of our specials is going to be two slices and a drink so people can come in and they don’t have to order a whole pizza.”
I can see that being handy at lunch to be able to zip in, grab a slice of pizza, and zip out. Being a big eater, I also like Jeff’s idea of offering a 17-inch large pizza, which he says is bigger than his competition. Another menu treat will be a 32-slice sheet pizza that sounds large enough to feed a ball team.
I’ll provide more information when Kenzeroni’s Pizza is ready to open.
As a sidenote, I understand there’s been some interest in the old Ponderosa/ old Peking/ old Fuji Japanese Steakhouse building at Plaza Shopping Center. That spot has been a revolving door since Peking left. The building is currently vacant. We'll have to keep our eyes open to see if another restaurant lands in that spot.

Helping to Promote Business ideas

It was last week when I told you about Mike Giglio and how his pet cremation business called Companions Forever has grown since he started it five years ago.
Little did I know the topic of new business ideas would come up again this past week as Warren County native David Gilbert launched his new product, Evermind, in McMinnville on Thursday. For those who missed the coverage in Friday’s edition, the Evermind technology serves as a sort of medical alert system that works well in homes of senior citizens who may be living alone.
Household appliances plug into Evermind sensors and those sensors can send text message alerts to a family member if the elderly person doesn’t make coffee at their usual time in the morning or turn off their bed-side light at their usual time at night.
One of the things I found interesting during the ceremony held Thursday were comments made by Michael Burcham, who is president and CEO of Nashville Entrepreneur Center. The center is aimed at helping upstart businesses get off the ground, getting a great idea from the drawing board and into production.
Nashville Entrepreneur Center caught my attention because Warren County Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander has talked about creating such a facility here. The local program is still in its developing stages, but Don sees it as a way to help folks turn their business dreams into a reality.
“If you think about some of the big companies today, a lot of them started in a garage,” said Don. “So what we thought we could do is supply the garage space.”
It’s with that in mind I called Mr. Burcham on Friday morning and asked him a few questions about Nashville Entrepreneur Center and what it does to help people like David Gilbert take an idea like Evermind and get that idea into production.
“Anybody in the community can come to our facility and get a screening,” Burcham told me. “We rank every person on several things such as their business model, the team of people they have in place, and the money they are trying to raise to support their project. Based on their scores, we give them three options.”
Burcham said people who score extremely high on the screening are invited to move into Nashville Entrepreneur Center and use that facility as their office. While there, they get extensive help in getting their business off the ground.
Burcham said between a dozen to 20 startup companies are normally operating at his facility at one time. He said that results in 30 to 40 launches each year.
People with business ideas that score just out of the top tier are invited to visit the facility a couple times a week to further their training and enhance their business model. People with business ideas that score well below those top two categories are not offered any services and must work on improving their business model or their financial backing. Burcham said 300 to 500 businesses are typically in some stage of the process.
“We’ve launched about 150 businesses from here since we opened in 2010,” said Burcham.
I bring all this up because I think such a facility would benefit the Warren County business community. We certainly wouldn’t be on the same scale as a city like Nashville, but Don is thinking in much smaller terms like a facility which could house perhaps four new businesses.
Elected officials are always quick to say they’re for bringing jobs to our community, but they are usually short on details about how they might accomplish this. I think a small business incubator would be a great place to start because small businesses can often grow to become larger businesses.

McGiboney among Top Tech investors

I always like to trumpet the accomplishments of local residents so I want to take a few paragraphs and tell you about the work of WCHS and Tennessee Tech graduate Mason McGiboney.
Mason is among a group of Tech students who are featured in a Forbes magazine regional insert that’s in the Aug. 18 edition. The students were part of a Tech group of financial students who won the TVA’s annual investment challenge. Twenty-five universities participate in the competition, which began 16 years ago.
Mason took part in the year-long challenge before graduating in May. To win the TVA challenge, the Tech students outperformed Wall Street – and all the other universities – with an astonishing 47.6 percent return on investment.
The market did enjoy a remarkable run during that time with the S&P 500 index earning a 32.4 percent return. But even with the remarkable return from the S&P 500, the Tech students beat that by 15 percent.
Anyone who knows much about the market realizes luck is involved anytime returns are that impressive and the Tech students struck a gold mine with their decision to purchase Tesla stock, which inexplicably soared through the roof during that span despite the company not having tremendous profitability. The Tesla stock really carried them to victory along with biotechnology and other industrial stocks.
As for Mason, he has remained in the financial sector and is working for UBS, a large bank in Nashville. He is on the commercial side of the bank dealing in wealth management. He is the son of Bud and Keri McGiboney.

That’s all folks

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