County unemployment figures released Thursday by the state show Warren County unemployment at a scant 4.6 percent. What a wonderful, beautiful number.
Jobs are back and this time it’s personal. As I noted last week in an interview with Kidd Ford owner Terry Kidd, new car sales are as powerful as a locomotive.
With this promising news in hand, I started to wonder about new home construction. If jobs are back and car sales are up, is the local housing market starting to see some light? The answer is yes.
I talked to local contractor Connan Jones on Friday and he told me residential construction has made its way back from a seven-year lull. Connan told me he has three houses under construction right now inside McMinnville city limits. Two of those are in Westwood after he finished three in that neighborhood last year.
“New home construction helps a lot of people, not just us,” said Connan, who noted it helps lumber suppliers, kitchen appliance makers, flooring companies and more. “Plus it puts extra dollars on the tax rolls by increasing the value of the property.”
Connan has 27 years of experience building homes and says he concentrates in Warren County. He said the recent surge in construction has created some problems because the industry is leaving years of hibernation.
“The labor shortage now is the biggest issue,” said Connan. “We can get houses done, but it takes awhile because there’s not enough labor. So many people left the trade when the work went away because there was nothing for them to do. Now it doesn’t seem like there are very many young people coming in. That’s what we need more than anything, for young people to become involved in the trade.”
If you’d like to see about building a new home in Warren County, Connan Jones Construction can be reached at 668-3816.
Superior Walls in Rock Island is another local business which specializes in residential construction. The company manufactures concrete walls at its plant and then trucks them to the job site for quick assembly.
Superior Walls president Stacey Harvey echoed the comments from Connan about the need for skilled construction labor.
“With all the new projects coming in, some people will be looking at two years before they can get their house built,” said Stacey. “The crisis we’re seeing now in the housing market is there’s hardly any skilled labor. If you’re a carpenter, you can easily get a job for $25 an hour. That’s up from $15 an hour just a few years ago.”
Stacey said Superior Walls has a total workforce of 52 employees thanks in large part to strong residential construction the past 18 months. His company serves a large region and does extensive work in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Huntsville, Ala.
“We will install six to eight foundations a week if the weather is good,” said Stacey.
He said Superior Walls currently does about 70 percent of its business with residential construction and 30 percent with commercial contracts. However, he said with the state passing legislation last week to address $10 billion in road projects, his business model is going to flip with a new emphasis on commercial work.
“We’re going to concentrate on commercial pre-cast for highway, road and bridge projects,” said Stacey. “The cyclical nature of the residential market has always been the bane of our existence. With all the infrastructure work that’s about to be addressed in Tennessee, we’re the only business in the state that can pre-cast the elements they need and we’re located right here in the middle of the state.”
Because of this, Stacey estimates Superior Walls will be able to double its workforce to over 100 employees in the next 24 months. Even with this promising news, he still warned of a lack of skilled housing labor, a problem he predicts will become acute in the next 24 to 36 months.
So to all the boys and girls glaring in the face of graduation in May, a job in the construction industry may be one worth considering. It appears wages are high and the work is available. Plus you get to build stuff.
Stacy’s Wellness has ribbon cutting
After two months in business, pharmacist Stacy Hazelwood had an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at Stacy’s Wellness Pharmacy on Chancery Street. Dozens gathered in excitement to enjoy a celebration that included fruit, donuts and a cheeseball.
Stacy said after working through some initial troubles with insurance companies the opening week or two, everything has been running as smooth as a mountain stream. He said new customers are transferring their prescriptions every day and really enjoying the convenience of his drive-thru window.
He said customers also appreciate the bubble packing reminder that comes with their prescriptions so they can remember if they’ve taken their medication or not.
Stacy made a big investment in McMinnville in opening an independent pharmacy here and I’m glad to see his hard work paying off. The business can be reached at 474-0600.
A-Plus Fasteners to make a move
The Industrial Development Board experienced some technical difficulties when Simpkins Energy stopped making lease payments on its building at 107 Magness Drive.
After a little legal arm wrestling, Simpkins Energy has vacated the premises, leaving the IDB with a 15,000-square-foot building.
It didn’t stay empty for long as A-Plus Fasteners has signed a deal to lease the building from the IDB with the option to buy at the end of the 15-year lease.
A-Plus Fasteners owner Chris Morton says the building is exactly the same size as his current space on Durham Street, but he couldn’t pass on the opportunity to buy.
“We’re working on 21 years in business,” said Chris, who has been the owner for five years. “We have a lot of foot traffic so I want to get the word out about our move. I don’t want to lose any of our customers. We’ve been serving the people of Warren County and we still want to serve them, only at a different location.”
A-Plus Fasteners is known for its wide selection of nuts, bolts, washers and screws. Chris said the move is going to be a “good-sized undertaking” but he doesn’t plan to be closed at all during the transition. He hopes to be in the new building, located near the hospital and just down from the ambulance station, by June 1.
Looking into the future, I see Chris and his staff moving bin after bin of bolts. It will be a tiring job, but the end result will be worth it as the old Simpkins Energy building is in good shape and easily accessible. A-Plus Fasteners will keep the same phone number, which is 473-0010.
Industrial activity remains high
There has been steady interest since it was announced three weeks ago that two industrial sites at Mt. View Industrial Park have received state certification.
“We’ve already had some phone calls and talked to some people about the certified sites,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander.
One site has 26 acres available, while the other has 52 acres.
Of the available industrial buildings, Don said the old Cookeville Tool & Die facility on the corner of Belmont Drive and Cadillac Lane has received significant interest. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an announcement concerning the 28,000-square-foot building in the near future.
Don said the old cheese plant on the bypass has been shown to some interested prospects, but no deal appears imminent. He said the property has rail access and shows fairly well, but difficult access for big trucks is an obstacle which seems to be a tripping point.
It’s all in the detail
For years Robert Wood had operated Auto Expressions, the cleanup shop on Chancery Street located across from C&K Donut. The business now has a new name and four new co-owners who took over on Thursday.
The business is now called Splash N Go Car Wash and Detail Shop. The four co-owners are Randy Nowlin, Brian Nowlin, Steve Nowlin, and Charles Nowlin.
“We want people to know they can bring their car here and it will be taken of like our own car,” said Brian. “You can inspect it and make sure everything is done to your satisfaction before you take it back.”
Steve wanted to stress the business is under new management and that all types of detail work are available. That can range from something as simple as an exterior wash to a complete interior and exterior detail job.
“Anything you can do to a car on the clean-up side we can do it,” said Randy, who also operates Warren County Pride, a detail shop on Old Morrison Road. Randy has run detail shops in Tullahoma, Murfreesboro and Franklin.
Brian says they are looking to be a part of the community and that means providing jobs.
“If there are kids looking for part-time work over the summer, we’d like to give them a job,” said Brian.
Steve is just recently back in town after retiring from the Army. Randy was reminiscing on Friday afternoon about his days of playing football for legendary coach Bobby Newby, who passed away earlier in the day.
The business offers pick-up and delivery for your convenience and can be reached at 507-8000. Hours are Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
That’s all folks
It’s hard to believe Monday is May Day and Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. I will be praying for a good gift idea for Mother’s Day, which is May 14.