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Business Cheetah 4-16
New manufacturing company on the way
Jeff Eaton, left, and Charlie Mullican have opened The BBQ Shack at Eatons Corner. The pulled pork is cooked fresh daily in this smoker located on the premises. Hours are Tuesday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There’s some great industrial news to report this week as Warren County is in the process of getting a new manufacturing company.
Benchmark Tool & Machine is expanding to the Morrison area in the building formerly occupied by Tennessee Warehouse. The company was founded 12 years ago in Pelham and got its start with four employees. The workforce has grown to 100.
“We’ll be using the building in Morrison to start a new product line,” said Jeff Hendrix, who founded Benchmark Tool with Robbie Dickerson. “In Pelham, we build shipping containers. In Morrison, we will be expanding into the marine industry and building trailers. We’ll start with trailers for pontoon boats and we will probably add several different varieties of trailers down the road. We could eventually get into agriculture trailers.”
The Benchmark plant in Pelham makes shipping containers for the automotive industry, which is a booming business with all the automotive suppliers in Middle Tennessee. In past stories, I’ve always felt the need to explain exactly what a shipping container is, so I will continue that tradition.
If there’s an automotive supplier that makes alternators for Nissan, for example, those alternators aren’t tossed in a crate for shipping. They’re placed in a sturdy, specially designed container that protects them and fits as many as possible in the least amount of space.
Jeff says the shipping container business will stay in Pelham. It’s the trailer business which will be the focus at the 48,000-square-foot building on Manchester Highway.
“The dates for having equipment installed are May 15 to May 22 and it will take us six to eight weeks after that to get all our trials done and go into production,” said Jeff. “That’s when we’ll be looking to go out into the markets and capture contracts.”
It will probably be July before Benchmark gets its equipment fully operational and is ready to start hiring employees, if the schedule goes according to plan. With an eventual workforce target of 40 employees, Benchmark is certainly a nice company to land which will benefit our local economy and provide some diversity from the constant automotive work.
I thanked Jeff and Robbie for picking Warren County for Benchmark’s expansion. Jeff said he has ties to this area and spent several years living in McMinnville. He says Benchmark has long-term plans to stay in Warren County.
Jeff said Benchmark has been able to thrive by relying on solid business practices. “We feel fortunate and humbled,” he said.

More companies on the horizon?

Momentum is a curious thing.
When things start to spring a leak, it’s amazing how far you can sink before patching the holes.
On the other end of the seesaw, once you start building positive momentum, it’s amazing how high you can soar.
Warren County appears in the process of climbing to new heights as we’re scooping up good news like a slightly curved chip scoops up just the right amount of salsa.
With Benchmark Tool on the way, followed by a $5.5 million Robotics Training Center in 2018, industrial officials are licking their lips and thinking about more industry to attract.
Two potential sites at Mt. View Industrial Park received the stamp of approval from the state on Monday when they were recognized as Select Tennessee Certified Sites. Our Industrial Development Board was notified of this glorious distinction by Rob Rolfe, the state’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Develop-ment.
Getting this certification is important because companies want the least amount of hassle when deciding to move into an area. They don’t want to walk in circles waiting to get past government red tape before they can start construction. They want to hit the gas and go.
This is the reason spec buildings are so popular. Much of the work has already been done, allowing an industry to move in quickly.
Commissioner Rolfe echoed these sentiments in his approval letter to IDB director Don Alexander.
Rolfe’s letter says, “When businesses explore location opportunities in Tennessee, they want great, shovel-ready sites. These companies are like consumers coming into a store and looking for product on the shelf. They aren’t built-to-order customers. They are ready-to-wear customers. They won’t wait until we create a site for them. They want them immediately. Your new site means you now have product on the shelf ready to buy.”
Commissioner Rolfe went on to talk about how certified sites like ours make the process easier when companies are ready to expand and relocate. He praised the efforts of local officials for getting this work done.
“I appreciate your commitment to further economic development in our great state and to help us reach Gov. Haslam’s goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs,” said Rolfe.
The way interest in Warren County has intensified in recent months, I look for more glowing news to develop. There have been some inquiries about the old S&S Industries building behind Medley’s Diner on Manchester Highway. That could be a spot for growth.

BBQ shack off to smoking start

In the world of BBQ, another player has stepped to the plate. And this player comes offering delicious BBQ sandwiches and pulled pork by the pound.
The BBQ Shack on Eaton’s Corner has opened across from Gateway Tire on Smithville Highway. Jeff Eaton and Charlie Mullican are the co-owners. The business just completed its second full week.
“We sold 400 pounds of pulled pork our first week,” said Jeff. “So far it’s been really popular. I don’t know how much BBQ you can eat, but some people have been eating here every day and we appreciate that.”
Jeff’s family has been making BBQ for years. In fact, his father and brother once operated a restaurant called Eaton’s BBQ years ago in the building next to Burch Supply. Jeff has never sold BBQ, but he’s always made it and been told it’s tasty.
“Everybody who tries it says, ‘Why don’t you sell this?’ so that’s why we decided to give it a shot,” said Jeff. The BBQ is hickory smoked for added flavor and cooked fresh daily in an on-site smoker.
If you want more than a sandwich, you can buy it by the pound. One customer has already ordered 30 pounds.
Charlie says he’s excited to get in the food service industry after years of working in the concrete business. He still does concrete work, but limits it primarily to the early morning so he can start preparing food for the lunch crowd.
“We’ve been cooking forever,” said Charlie, who indicated their recipe received high honors in 2009, the only time they entered the Smokin’ in McMinnville competition.
Charlie said after 25 years in the concrete business, finding people willing to perform manual labor is a challenge. “I’m a daycare, taxi service and financial institution all in one,” said Charlie.
If you’d like to give The BBQ Shack at Eaton’s Corner at try, the business is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There are three picnic tables for your outdoor dining pleasure. You can phone in orders at 808-4224.

That’s all folks

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