It was with great ceremony, and some type of chicken dish, the Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet Monday night. Awards were bestowed on some of the best and brightest in our community and I went into detail on those awards in Wednesday’s edition.
What I didn’t mention was the presentation by Chamber of Commerce president Mandy Eller highlighting accomplishments of 2016 and outlining goals for 2017.
One nifty piece of technology on the horizon for Warren County is a tourism app that will be under development beginning in March. The Chamber received a grant for this project.
“We have over 60,000 people coming to Isha and Bluegrass Underground every year, but they don’t necessarily know where to go from there,” said Mandy. “We want to get them to see our businesses and get them to further engage in our community.”
It looks like we’ll soon have an app for that.
Musky fishing has also been a lure and the Chamber has jumped onboard so to speak in an effort to attract more fisherman. Mandy even had a booth at an outdoor expo in Milwaukee last year to promote our area.
“Todd Gregory of Towee Boats brought it to my attention how many musky fishermen are coming to town, especially in the winter months,” said Mandy. “Up north, their rivers freeze so they can’t fish up there, but we don’t have that problem here.”
Mandy said musky guide Chris Willen has made Warren County his permanent home because so many people are using his expertise. The annual Hardly Strictly Musky Tournament in May has earned a reputation as a premier event with fisherman coming from Colorado, Florida and New York.
When Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Kevin Triplett made a pledge to visit all 95 counties in the state, Mandy said she learned Warren County was No. 82 on the list. That’s not exactly near the top. She realized standing out from the crowd was going to be a challenge so she got representatives from area businesses to meet with Triplett and tell their personal stories in person.
The plan worked as Mickey Heath with Smooth Rapids made such an impression, Triplett asked him to serve on the Rural Development Task Force. Furthermore, Mandy says she’s attended conferences where she’s heard Triplett repeat the Smooth Rapids story, which is an amazing tale. When this story is eventually made into a movie, I want to play the role of Jimmy Barker.
After years of floating aimlessly in a boat with no oars, our Chamber of Commerce has found its course and is sailing with purpose. It’s nice to see. A rising Chamber raises all businesses.
Gammie’s House opens Monday
Longtime basketball coach and daycare worker Shawnda Ramsey finally has a place to call her own. After working for two different daycares, Shawnda will open her very own facility Monday morning called Gammie’s House. It’s located at 109 Seitz Street behind Middle Tennessee Natural Gas.
“I love being around kids,” said Shawnda. “Whether I’m coaching them at a ball game or I’m watching them at a daycare, it’s a joy to see them smile and to see them be kids. I want to make a positive impact in their lives to help them have a bright future.”
Shawnda is a champ. She’s worked at daycares such as Kiddie Campus and Lena’s Learn and Play. She’s coached girls basketball for WCMS and WCHS.
“It’s amazing to watch them grow,” said Shawnda. “There are some girls I’ve coached through the years that have invited me to come to their wedding. It makes you feel like you were a big part of their life.”
Gammie’s House is a daycare bursting with toys and enriching activities. What you won’t find there is a TV.
“I want their minds working,” said Shawnda. “They won’t just be here playing. They will be learning and they won’t be staring at a TV screen. There’s no TV here.”
Shawnda has three grown daughters. One of them, Diamond Caldwell, will be helping her run Gammie’s House. Per their licensing, they can accommodate 12 full-time children and three after-school children.
Shawnda says she currently has two openings for infants from 6 weeks old to 2 years old. She has several spots available for children 2 years old and up. Meals include breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.
“I’m on the food program, which means I get my menu from the state,” said Shawnda. “I will be serving nutritious meals. It won’t be pizza rolls.”
This might not be one of her redeeming qualities, but Shawnda is an Alabama fan. I had to get that out there, partially because her phone number is 474-BAMA. Shawnda admits she took the national championship loss to Clemson hard, turning off her phone and going directly to bed. I don’t mean to rub it in, but I rather enjoyed that game.
Gammie’s House is open Monday thru Friday from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Is this Co-op? Yes, it is!
If you think of Warren Farmers Co-op as a place to buy feed and chemicals, think again. Those items are still available, but there’s so much more at Co-op’s revamped and award-winning showroom.
I can call it an award-winning showroom because it has, in fact, catapulted Co-op employees Darrin Barnes and Kim Cannon to the Middle Tennessee Master Merchants of the Year Award. They received the recognition Jan. 9 after months of work.
“We had to move the entire store,” said Darrin in explaining the reorganization has created more than 100 feet of new shelf space for more merchandise. “We had to do it in stages. We’re 95 percent complete with it.”
The extra space has allowed Co-op to expand its clothing line. There are leather belts, boots, hoodies, cowboy hats, jeans, shirts, and overalls.
The toy line has also expanded, along with the line of decorative items for the home. If you’ve never thought of Co-op as a place to buy home décor, think again.
The beekeeping items have also been expanded. “You wouldn’t believe the number of people who love to keep bees,” said Kim.
The showroom redesign moved the counter from the back corner to the center of the room. It also led to the departure of several products.
“We used this as an opportunity to discontinue items that were old and obsolete,” said Kim. “It’s out with the old and in with the new.”
Since everyone now feels the need to walk around with a loaded gun, Co-op has just the thing for the ladies. There are conceal carry purses available, which Kim says are wildly popular.
Don’t take my word on the fabulous Co-op showroom. Stop by the store on S. Chancery Street to see for yourself. The phone number 668-4151.
New mechanic sets up shop
You could call Timmy Swoape a life-long mechanic. He says he’s been working on cars since he was just a lad.
“My dad always had me under the hood of a car,” said Timmy. “You could say I was born from an engine block I guess.”
Timmy has opened The Swoape House of Performance at 108 Red Road by the railroad tracks near Sparta Street. He’s available to do any type of mechanic work, no matter how major. He can rebuild an engine or transmission, do body work and painting.
“I love the high-performance stuff, but I’ll do anything,” said Timmy.
His business opened a month ago and his workload has been steadily increasing. He just finished rebuilding a motor for a Toyota four-wheel drive pickup.
“He got stuck in the mud and blew up the engine trying to get out,” said Timmy. “I used the old engine block because it was still good but I’ve rebuilt everything else in it.”
He’s putting a motor in a dumptruck that came out of a van and is close to having that project complete. He says if you’re replacing a motor in one vehicle with a comparable motor that doesn’t require him to do a bunch of fabricating, it will take him about three days to get the job done.
“It will take me two days to get the motor in and then I like to spend another day looking everything over to make sure it’s right,” said Timmy, who added he’s fortunate to have found a spacious building.
His other projects currently in progress include a 1995 Mustang and a 1969 Camoro. Timmy is helped in the business by his wife and administrative assistant Linda. Hours are Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number is 506-7298.
Unemployment is going up
Tennessee unemployment estimates for December 2016 are in and you may want to take a seat for this. Unemployment rates increased in all 95 counties. That’s terrible news.
The state’s overall unemployment rate now stands at 4.9 percent.
In Warren County, unemployment rose to 4.6 percent, up from 4.4 percent. In White County, it increased from 5.2 to 5.7 percent. In Van Buren County, the increase was a full 1 percent from 5.6 to 6.6 percent, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The economy and unemployment rates tend to run in cycles. For example, when Bill Clinton was president, America enjoyed prosperity and growth. It was a positive cycle.
When George W. Bush became president, the cycle turned downward and the nation plunged into deep recession. Finding a job was a crowning achievement. It got so bad, the government mailed out checks (I received $600) and told people it was their duty as Americans to spend the money ASAP to stimulate the economy.
When Barack Obama became president, the unemployment rate began its steady descent, dropping to an amazingly low national rate of 4.6 percent. Over the summer there were so many jobs available it reached the point where companies were basically begging people to work.
Now the unemployment rate has already reacted to November’s election and the Donald Trump presidency and is on its way back up. If you have a job, you better hold on with both hands. Good luck.
That’s all folks
Don’t be shy about reporting your business news. The number to call is 473-2191.