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Business Pulse 2-1-15
Widespread Panic is shown performing at Cumberland Caverns during a special PBS installment of Bluegrass Underground. The three-day Bluegrass Underground taping set for this March sold out in 15 minutes. Its one of 25 Bluegrass Underground events planned this year.

Of all the stories and columns that have appeared in the Southern Standard over the past two months, all folks seem to be talking about is how much newspaper employees weigh.
This comes after Duane Sherrill wrote a column about weighing over 200 pounds, and Lisa Hobbs wrote a column about losing 30 pounds. These columns have resonated with our readers as people have mentioned them to me several times in passing.
“So I see where Duane has put on a little weight,” one person will say.
Another will offer, “I bet Lisa feels great after losing 30 pounds.”
What I’m taking from this is people don’t want to know that much about government meetings or recent crime stories. They just want to know how much we weigh.
It’s with that in mind, I bring you the following information:
James Clark – 176 pounds
Seth Wright – 158 pounds
Bruce Duke – 192 pounds
Dale Stubblefield – 206 pounds
Duane Sherrill – 202 pounds
I’m sorry to report the women at the office are not at all receptive to this new feature and do not want their weight listed in the paper. They also don’t want me to estimate their weight for publication purposes because they don’t want people to know how much I think they weigh.  So this may be a one-time deal. I hope you enjoyed it.
A sellout
In 15 minutes

One of the great things to happen to Warren County in recent years is the creation of Bluegrass Underground, a concert series held at Cumberland Caverns. This has put a national spotlight on our fine county, attracting visitors from across America.
To show the popularity of the Bluegrass Underground TV series, tickets for that three-day event sold out in 15 minutes when they went on sale earlier this month.
“We’ve had people from all 50 states,” said Bluegrass Underground producer Todd Jarrell. “We’ve also had people come from The Netherlands, Thailand, and one couple came from Dubai. The woman told me she sold her car so they could buy plane tickets.”
Filming for season five of Bluegrass Underground on PBS will be March 27-29. Performers include Bela Fleck, Billy Joe Shaver and Lee Ann Womack. Tickets for a weekend package for two, complete with hotel accommodations at Fall Creek Falls, sold for $868.
Bluegrass Underground creator Todd Mayo began the series by recording radio shows at Cumberland Caverns. But the concept really hit high gear when PBS came into the fold and began televising concerts. Bluegrass Underground is now shown in 70 percent of all U.S. markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston. Of those TV showings, 30 percent are in prime time.
“There is a lot of demand,” said Mayo. “We did 19 shows there last year and we have 25 shows planned for this year. In the summer and fall we really get busy. There are a couple months where we’re doing three shows a month.”
Mayo told me Bluegrass Underground decided to do a package deal with Fall Creek Falls for hotel rooms because of availability (there are 144 rooms there) and because it’s a nice facility. He said the idea of a nice hotel/ convention center in McMinnville would certainly benefit his production.
“It would add tremendous value to what we’re doing with Bluegrass Underground,” said Mayo.

We need A new hotel

Anyone who has read my column somewhat regularly over the past three years probably knew where I was going with this. We need a new hotel/ conference center in McMinnville.
There's a definite need.
Bluegrass Underground is looking at doing 25 shows this year at Cumberland Caverns. With 52 weeks a year, that translates to a show roughly every other weekend.
When you consider we’re wanting to attract tourists to kayak our rivers, fish for muskie, and even stay for Bonnaroo one week out of the year, it’s not hard to see how we could fill up a nice hotel on a regular basis.
“This is something I continue to work on,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander. “It’s been like a jigsaw puzzle I’ve been working on for a while. One or two pieces have fallen into place.”
Like me, Don says he is convinced Warren County needs a new hotel.
“With all the things happening here, I think it’s a no-brainer,” said Don. “It would add to the overall economy to have more people staying here. We need one and I think there will come a day when we have one.”
Don has worked to put together a group of investors that could make this project work, but it hasn’t happened yet. I see this as an area where government could help with financing, especially if a conference center is included on the ground floor.
In neighboring Coffee County, the city of Manchester partnered with Coffee County government to build the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center with taxpayer dollars. The facility is not quite break-even but it’s close, according to former Coffee County Mayor David Pennington, who decided not to seek re-election in August after eight years in office.
“The thing was conceived not to make a whole lot of money itself, but it helps everything around it,” said Pennington. “It will hold 500 people and it’s drawn people from Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, and many from Warren County for its meeting space. It’s served as a centerpiece for development with hotels, restaurants and retail wanting to locate all around it. When you think about people coming in for meetings they are going to want places to shop and eat.”
Pennington said the conference center is a big reason why Coffee County has an estimated 2,000 hotel rooms with a new hotel currently under construction off exit 110 of Interstate 24. It should be noted Manchester has the advantage an interstate, which McMinnville does not.
Still, Pennington said a hotel/ conference center would be a tremendous boost for Warren County because it would serve as a regional draw and its own economic hub.
“If I were to make a recommendation, this is something you don’t want to build on a five-acre tract,” said Pennington. “You’re going to have other businesses that want to locate around it. If you’re doing long-range planning for five or 10 years, you should take into account it will really attract other things.”
This is all food for thought as city and county officials try to take steps to better our area. If we want to attract tourism and encourage people to visit our community, we have to give them a place to stay. It’s that simple.
I realize I’m going to make the people of the Irving College community mad with this statement but here goes. If we can find $3 million to spend on Irving College School, we can find the money to invest in a hotel/ conference center that will be a huge regional draw.

Three cheers for Thomas Smith

The Chamber of Commerce handed out its annual awards Monday night with NAPA owner Thomas Smith receiving the coveted Edwin Partin Retailer of the Year Award. The only problem with this fairytale story is Thomas wasn’t in attendance to receive the award.
It turns out he has a good excuse, although I didn’t see a note from his mother. Thomas was with another organization dear to his heart, the Boy Scouts, who were having an awards banquet of their own. Thomas said he had no idea he was going to be presented with a Chamber award or he would have certainly been in attendance.
Since I wanted to get a picture of Thomas in the newspaper to honor his accomplishment, we met Wednesday at the Chamber with award presenter Pam Wilson.
“His being at a Boy Scout banquet at exactly the same time shows why Thomas was picked as Retailer of the Year,” said Pam. “We want people who are well-rounded and who care about the community. Thomas is a special parent in addition to operating a good business.”
Congratulations to Thomas from the editors of Business Pulse. Unfortunately, Thomas hasn’t received many congratulations lately for his once-popular chili, which used to win chili contests all the time. But I’m sorry to report Thomas is in a bit of a chili slump.

Mickey Ralph Joins High’s

Business has sure been dead lately at High Funeral Home. OK, so that’s a bad funeral joke.
Mickey Ralph Jr., has joined the staff at High’s as an insurance representative. He says he’s happy to work with people on planning their funeral so there’s no indecision when they’re gone.
“It can be a tough time if your mom or dad has just died and now you have to plan their funeral,” said Mickey. “I can work with people to pre-plan their funeral so they can pick out the casket they want, pick out the songs they want, and decide how much they want to pay.”
The best time to do this is not when you’re mourning the death of a loved one. It’s when you have time to think about the situation rationally and decide exactly what you want. By doing it this way, it can prevent family members from bickering over funeral arrangements during what’s already a very difficult time.
Mickey has been in the insurance business for eight years and his family has over 60 years of experience. There are multiple options for paying for funeral expenses, Mickey says, including paying up front, paying in installments, or paying through life insurance. Or you can pay nothing and let your kids worry about it.
Since I want an extravagant funeral to celebrate my life, it might be better for me to discuss a pre-payment plan. I would hate for any of my relatives to misunderstand and plan a funeral that doesn’t honor my life in suitable fashion.
While a number of High’s employees work all hours of the day and night, Mickey says he’s going to keep hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He can be reached at 473-2137, or at High Funeral Home on College Street. With the addition of Mickey, High’s now has 13 employees.

Memory Lane Again Is moving

There will soon be a new home for Memory Lane Again, which is in the process of moving from downtown McMinnville to the Mt. Leo area. The business is owned by Billie Laliberte and her daughter April Brister.
“This will be a step up,” said Billie, who has been busy moving for the past five days. “We were shooting for Feb. 1 as an opening date, but that would have been too much of a rush so we’re going to push it back a few days and open Feb. 10. That will give us more time to get everything right.”
Memory Lane Again specializes in antiques and collectibles. April has also done some furniture refinishing.
The new location is at 2039 Beersheba Highway in what’s commonly referred to as the old Foodland building. It’s a much bigger location and Billie has nine vendors coming with her who rent booth space.
“We have really worked hard redoing the building,” said Billie. “It looks like an old town when you walk in.”
For more information about Memory Lane Again, Billie can be reached at 304-1517. Look for the grand opening Feb. 10.

Unemployment Rate rocks

The state released its latest batch of unemployment figures Thursday and things certainly appear to be pointed in the right direction. Four counties have unemployment below 5 percent – Lincoln, Williamson, Wilson and Rutherford.
Warren County unemployment is 6.5 percent, which is down 1 percent from a year ago. Tennessee unemployment is 6.6 percent, and U.S. unemployment is 5.6 percent.
Overall, it’s a picture of solid economic health. Now if only those wages will start to inch higher we’ll be in business.

That’s all folks

I’m looking forward to seeing Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott during the Super Bowl halftime show. My guess is there will be controversy. Call with all your great business news at 473-2191 or