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Business Pulse 5-24-15
Caney Fork Electric held customer appreciation day on Thursday and treated visitors to BBQ sandwiches. Louie the Lightning Bug took time to flutter around the crowd for plenty of photo opportunities. Louie is pictured with, from left, Carigan Aughinbaugh, Brooklyn Grissom, Katy Pennington and Kelsey Lorance.

Graduation is in the air, which seems like as good a time as any to produce words of wisdom.
I’ve never been one to be accused of being a deep thinker so I’m not sure what great insight I can impart on this memorable occasion. Most of my day is consumed with thoughts like, “I wonder if I should add bacon for an extra 75 cents?”
So when the time comes for me to be profound, I crash like a toddler without training wheels. Thankfully, I listen to plenty of rock ‘n roll music, which probably does some explaining.
So in honor of the graduating class of 2015, I offer these few select song lyrics in hopes they provide inspiration as you close one chapter and begin another.

“In the field of opportunity, it’s plowing time again.”
– Neil Young

“If you try the best you can, the best you can is good enough.”
– Radiohead

“There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”
– Led Zeppelin

“I ate the last mango in Paris, took the last plane out of Saigon, took the first fast boat to China, and Jimmy, there’s still so much to do.”
 – Jimmy Buffett

“MCA was with it and he’s my ace, so I grabbed the piano player and I punched him in the face.”
– Beastie Boys

OK, so I’m not sure exactly how that Beastie Boys song lyric relates to personal achievement and the quest for success, but it sure is catchy.

Bridgestone turns 25

State officials were in attendance, as well as employees from the very first day of operation, as Bridgestone celebrated 25 years in Warren County on Friday.
Plant manager John Stewart told the crowd gathered in attendance that roughly 50 people still work for Bridgestone who were with the company from day one. They were asked to stand and received a warm round of applause.
Stewart then said the local Bridgestone plant employs more than 1,000 people and produces over 9,000 truck and bus tires a day. He then turned the program over to Bridgestone Americas CEO and president Gary Garfield.
“This plant is a linchpin in the Bridgestone manufacturing network,” said Garfield. He then said the Warren County plant uses 3 million pounds of materials each day and manufactures 200,000 tons of tires each year.
“It does that with an extraordinary degree of excellence,” said Garfield. “This is a great facility with wonderful equipment, but that’s not the key. What matters is the people and the culture. That’s what allows this facility to rise to the top.”
Garfield then recognized four key people in attendance who helped get Bridgestone off the ground as original employees. That included plant manager Bob Walsh, operations manager Ron Brooks, plant engineer Norville Smith, and human resource manager Mark McLaughlin.
Bridgestone senior vice president Steve Shelton also talked about the positive culture at the Warren County plant and said he never has to worry about this plant making production.
“When I look at daily reports, and I still do that, I take about two seconds to look at Warren County,” said Shelton. “That’s because you’re consistent, you deliver, and you always deliver.”
Union president Billy Dycus told a story about how he grew up in humble means, but his parents were both determined to do their best to better their situation. He said that’s how he perceives the situation between Bridgestone and its union.
“When I look at this relationship, that’s what I see,” said Dycus. “I see two sides looking around and trying to do what’s in the best interest of both parties.”
Bridgestone vice president Barry Owens said the Warren County plant is No. 1 globally in terms of energy efficiency. He also said this was Japan’s first plant on U.S. soil. Bridgestone has been rewarded for this leap of faith, he said, because the local plant ranks in the top 5 in every metric measured.
State Rep. Kevin Dunlap put Bridgestone’s long tenure in perspective when he said he was in sixth grade when the plant began operations here.
“I can’t think of Warren County without Bridgestone,” said Dunlap.
Director of Schools Bobby Cox drew a correlation between Bridgestone producing tires and the school system producing quality graduates.
“When you talk about producing 9,000 tires a day, our goal is to turn out a product you can use and we’re going to have 450 graduates tonight,” said Cox.
Many photos were taken following the ceremony and members of the high school band provided music to delight the crowd, including “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes.
Congratulations to Bridgestone for 25 years in Warren County. Many speakers echoed the sentiment they hope it’s 25 more.

Local developers eye Printers Alley

I was in Nashville walking down Printers Alley last weekend when I remembered a question I was asked several weeks before about Jewel Hale embarking on some type of renovation project for the Music City landmark.
When I talked to Jewel about it Friday, he said he and business partner Bobby Kirby are indeed involved in a full-scale hotel project at Printers Alley with some rather big-name co-investors. Among those co-investors are Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
“We should break ground in July and it’s expected to be a 15-month project,” said Jewel. “It will be an Ace Hotel, which is a really nice hotel and boutique. They have them in New York, California and London.”
Jewel said the project is expected to cost north of $50 million and will feature a hotel with 135 rooms. He said it took combining seven properties at Printers Alley and the hotel will be built above and around the existing buildings.
If you take a few minutes to look up Ace Hotel on the Internet, I think you’ll find it’s not your standard place to spend the night. I can’t decide if the rooms are a blast from the past, or a gaze into the future.
Jewel said he thinks the hotel will do well in thriving Nashville.
“The difference in the economies between here and Nashville is like daylight to dark,” said Jewel. “In Nashville, the medical field and all its spin-offs is just huge. You have industries, sports teams, music. It’s the place people go when they want to eat, shop and be entertained. We’re doing a lot of stuff in Nashville and Murfreesboro right now.”
Since we were on the topic of a new hotel in Nashville, I asked Jewel his thoughts about a new hotel in Warren County. He didn’t cozy up to the idea.
“I do not feel comfortable at this time with a hotel project in McMinnville,” he said.
When I asked Jewel how he ever got connected with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, he said Bobby Kirby’s brother, Kent, is to thank for that. He said Kent is in wealth management in Nashville and he is friends with the country music stars.
The best part is Jewel said he’d be glad to fix me up with a free hotel room when the project is complete. Well I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but I'm a firm believer in the power of suggestion.

IDB Rundown

The Industrial Development Board came together Thursday for its monthly deliberations about the betterment of the Warren County economy.
Board director Don Alexander gave a progress report on the effort to buy land in the city of McMinnville to construct a spec building. He said he ruled out one potential site because it is only accessible by a two-lane road. Don said he didn’t think it would be appealing to have 18-wheelers navigating such a narrow road.
Board members agreed that would not make for an ideal situation and agreed to consider other locations. Don said having a spec building ready is a giant step toward landing a new industry because so much of the grunt work is already complete.
“We have a good deal of raw land. There’s no doubt about that,” said Don. “But as you know, industrial sites don’t flip on and off overnight. We could miss out on something if we’re not ready.”
Don believes the manufacturing jobs in Murfreesboro and Nashville are going to continue to create spin-off work and he says Warren County is poised to be a potential landing spot. Don agreed to continue exploring other sites in the city as possible places to put a spec building.
The IDB did discuss one promising local expansion project that’s not yet ready to be announced. Based on rough details of the project, one local plant will be expanding, changing its name, and adding about 100 new jobs over the next two years. I will have more on this in the coming weeks.
In other IDB news, the terms of IDB chair Sandra Haynes and vice chair Tommy Foster were set to expire. Board members had a brief discussion and determined a change in leadership is not needed at this time.
With that in mind, Sandra was reelected as board chair with Tommy reelected as vice chair. However, both Haynes and Foster have to be reappointed to their IDB seats in August, meaning there’s a chance they might not be on the board much longer.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said board member Joe Pugh in eagerly voting to retain Sandra and Tommy in their current capacities.

Unemployment takes a dip

According to figures released Thursday by the state, Tennessee unemployment dipped to 6 percent in April, down from 6.3 percent the month before.
It’s the third straight monthly decline for Tennessee unemployment.
For the nation, unemployment for April was 5.4 percent. County-by-county unemployment rates are routinely released one week after the statewide rates so we’ll get a chance to see Warren County’s numbers next week.

That’s all folks

If you have business tips, or Bonnaroo tickets you want to get rid of, give me a call at 473-2191. My email is