Some of you may have noticed the story on the front page of Friday’s paper reporting on how the Chamber of Commerce has parted ways with its president of seven years, Alicea Weddington. In making the decision, the Chamber board of directors said it was time to head in a different direction.
Attention now turns to hiring a new Chamber president, a position I believe is an important one. The Chamber of Commerce is typically called “the front door to your community” as it’s frequently the first place people turn to find basic information.
Chamber board chair Cindy Rogers told me there would be a meeting on Tuesday to finalize the job description of the new Chamber president and get the hiring process under way. Anyone who may be interested in applying can drop a resume by the Chamber building on Court Square or call 473-6611 for more information.
“We want to get someone in place as soon as possible, but we want it to be the right person,” said Cindy. “We’re not going to rush into anything.”
Anyone familiar with the framework of the Chamber knows businesses pay Chamber dues and hope to get a certain amount of support in exchange. Businesses don’t expect to pay Chamber dues and get nothing from the organization in return.
“We want to revitalize some programs for our Chamber members and for the community,” said Rogers. “We have the money in our budget to make it happen. This can be anything from networking, to holding seminars for retail and industry, to holding events that are pertinent for the times. We want to provide programs that will be helpful.”
I think this is a great opportunity for the Chamber to hire an active, energetic and ambitious president who can really be an asset to our community. If the Chamber is the front door to Warren County and the first place people stop, it will only help to make a favorable impression.
Coming to Morrison
Last week, I told you there would be a new company moving into the old Apex Construction building on Manchester Highway in Morrison. This week, I have all the details.
Michael Frey is starting a company called Diverse Medical Management in that building, which is actually four companies rolled into one.
“This has been in the works for a while and we think these services are really going to be an asset to the community,” said Michael, whose background is in medical marketing.
One aspect of the business will focus on early childhood development and will cater to children who have learning disabilities, autism, or other issues. The child center will offer speech and physical therapy, tutoring, and other services.
“Providing an initial assessment will be a big part of what we do,” said Michael. “This assessment determines what we feel is the problem and the best way to go about treating it. There are places in Nashville where you can go and have this sort of thing done, but there’s often a waiting list. This can be frustrating for a parent because you want to get help for your child but then you have to wait. We can begin therapy right here in the building.”
Part two of the business will be a substance abuse and rehab clinic. Michael says this will start as an outpatient clinic with plans to grow to an in-patient clinic capable of housing a small number of patients.
“I think 10 people would be about right,” said Michael. “We don’t want it to grow to where we have 50 patients staying here.”
The substance abuse clinic can be used by people who stay at more well-known facilities such as Cumberland Heights, but then have a follow-up treatment plan after they are released. Substance abuse will deal with drugs and alcohol.
Part three of the business will be a walk-in, cash medical clinic. Michael said this clinic will provide a number of services such as flu shots, drug screens, and it will be handy for anyone who gets sick while working at one of our industrial employers in Morrison.
“It’s an unfortunate fact that a lot of people don’t have health insurance,” said Michael. “This cash clinic will be a way for them to get the care they need. We plan to have a nurse practitioner on site.”
Part four of the business deals with telemedicine and reaching patients at psychiatric wards like Riverside Center in Woodbury. Michael said movies do a bad job of painting psych wards in a bad light and Riverside Center is professionally run.
“The telemedicine will allow us to treat patients without having feet on the ground at their facility,” said Michael. “This will allow us to see many more patients than if we had to drive from facility to facility.”
The old Apex building has 9,000 square feet and 17 rooms to make it a great fit for such a medical facility. Michael says he hopes to have new signage up later this week and be up and running in October. He said as business grows, he will be able to hire more nurses, therapists and counselors to add to the workforce.
The business has three phone numbers 815-8525, 815-8526 and 815-8527. The website is diversemminc.com. He said Steven Wright from Franklin and Sue Conley at Riverside Center are key contributors.
Motorists passing the DN Plastics building on Manchester Highway have probably noticed the outside is nearly complete. The company has already begun moving in equipment.
“They should be ready to go around mid-October,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander. “Work has started on the rail spur and the scheduled completion date for it is Dec. 31. Right now they are working on configuring the office space which takes a little more time than some of the other work.”
Don said the first order of business will be hiring a plant manager. Once the plant manager is in place, that person will be given the green light to hire other management personnel.
DN Plastics is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and owned by Raj Agrawal. He has estimated the new plant will represent a $10.1 million investment and 100 jobs.
On the calendar
IDB director Don Alexander is heading to Atlanta for a large retail conference at the end of October. During Thursday’s monthly IDB meeting, Don asked board members for their permission to attend the conference and permission was granted. The conference is scheduled Oct. 27-29.
“Representatives from MES have gone and they say it’s very effective for them to be there,” said Don. “There are a lot of franchise companies there and some of them have located here because of this conference.”
McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley was in attendance at the meeting and he said the conference is a great opportunity to meet retailers.
“I’ve been before and it really gives you an understanding of what these franchise companies are looking for,” said Jimmy. “People always say why don’t you get Chick-Fil-A or why don’t you get Zaxby’s and it’s because we don’t have the income or the population. These companies have all the demographics laid out right in front of them and they know what will work and what won’t. There is one franchise that wants to locate here right now but they can’t come to an agreement on the property they want to buy.”
IDB members were told there was money in the budget for Alexander to attend. After hearing that, they approved his request to attend.
But fewer jobs
The Industrial Development Board addressed a question Thursday that’s sure to arise in every community across the nation in the coming years. The board has received a request from a local company to help with the purchase of some very expensive and sophisticated equipment. However, the purchase comes with a catch.
“This company, which I can’t mention by name, wants to modernize,” said Don Alexander. “But instead of adding jobs, this automation is going to reduce this company’s workforce. So they are asking for a tax abatement to buy equipment that’s going to eliminate some jobs. With the program we have in place, our policy is to help companies that are creating jobs, not reducing them.”
This question is one which will not be unique to McMinnville as manufacturing companies turn to more and more robotics as a vital part of their operation. Don said the IDB should consider revising its longstanding policy which ties financial assistance to jobs created.
Don said one advantage to helping a company enhance its technology is it will keep that company in this community as opposed to it leaving for greener pastures elsewhere. He also said these companies tend to pay more.
“They have employees who are highly trained who are operating highly automated equipment. They aren’t paying $12 an hour,” said Don.
It was suggested the IDB look at the potential jobs saved instead of the number of jobs lost. For example, if a company reduces its workforce from 400 to 350, but stays in Warren County, that could be viewed as 350 jobs saved.
Don said this particular company was looking for tax abatement help on about $10 million worth of equipment. However, he said he didn’t want to write a policy for this particular situation, but rather one that covers what could be a regular question in the future.
“I think this policy needs to be updated,” said IDB chair Sandra Haynes.
Added IDB member Joe Pugh, “The automation is going to come.”
IDB members agreed to think about possible policy changes and address the question again at their next board meeting in October.
Docks on Main Street
There’s a new rustic furniture and gift shop that’s opened on Main Street. Painted Anchor is located next to Juicy’s and Paul Holder Realty and is open Wednesday thru Saturday.
Store owner Emily Boersma opened the business when it grew to be more than a hobby. Her husband, Kevin, makes some of the furniture and Emily paints it in the popular process known as repurposing.
It’s a neat shop as Emily has done much work on the inside of the building.
“The ceiling is from an old barn in Sparta,” said Emily. “And the wall is from a bunch of old pallets.”
In addition to the big furniture items, there’s a variety of other merchandise, all of which Emily says has been made in Tennessee. These items include jewelry, picture frames, and candles.
Painted Anchor got its start in the back corner of Plaza Shopping Center. The store was there for about a month before moving to Main Street in early September.
“I really like all the activity and walk-in traffic I get here,” said Emily.
The Painted Anchor is open Wednesday thru Friday from 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The phone number is 474-9080.
Still going up
After dropping to almost 6 percent several months ago, the Tennessee unemployment rate is gradually on its way back up. According to figures released Thursday by the state, the unemployment rate for August was 7.4 percent. That’s up from the 7.1 rate in July.
National unemployment is reported at 6.1 percent for August. Even with higher state unemployment in recent months, Tennessee unemployment is still lower than it was one year ago, dropping from 8.4 to 7.4 percent.
That’s all folks
Tune in next week for more fun, exciting and highly entertaining business news. Call 473-2191 with your tips.