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Business Cheetah 4-9
Economic activity soaring like Evel Knievel
Local and state officials were on hand Thursday to receive a $445,500 state grant for site development at Mt. View Industrial Park. Local and state representatives pictured are, from left, Don Alexander, Jodi Sliger, Jimmy Haley, Bob Rolfe, Herschel Wells Sr., Bailey Barnes, and Amy New.

Remember back in the day when daredevil Evel Knievel used to jump things with his motorcycle.
His first major stunt was jumping a 20-foot box filled with rattlesnakes -- and thank goodness he made it. That would have hurt.
As his feats of amazement increased, Evel failed to jump 12 cars and a cargo van in Montana, which landed him in the hospital. But he rebounded nicely to successfully jump his motorcycle over 16 cars in California.
Evel’s most publicized endeavor was his failed attempt to jump the fountain at Caesars Palace. It would have been a monstrous 141-foot jump, but he landed just short.
I mention these high-flying acts of bravado because 1) it’s fun to reminisce about Evel Knievel, and 2) economic activity is really ramping up in Warren County. It's soaring like a motorcycle trying to jump seven delivery trucks.
To get a feel of the local business climate, look no further than Keith Bouldin, owner of Tri-State Development. Keith's company is the biggest commercial contractor in Warren County, having built a number of high-profile facilities.
This includes the 119,000-square-foot DN Plastics building on Manchester Highway. Most everyone notices this impressive building as they're traveling toward Morrison. It's the ridiculously large facility with five cars parked outside.
Keith also built the Sansin building at Mt. View Industrial Park and the Miniature Precision Components expansion. He has been busy.
“We’re seeing a lot of manufacturing plants that want additions and that’s certainly a good sign,” said Keith, who admits business is now running full throttle. “We’re waiting to start on a number of projects as soon as it dries up and stops raining.”
Tri-State Development is currently working on an addition to Custom Collision on Pike Hill Road across from the fairgrounds. The addition is expected to be complete in about six weeks.
Custom Collision owner Alan West has steadily grown his business over the past 25 years since buying it from his uncle, Calvin West, in 1992. This is his second expansion at his current location.
“I’m just glad I got in before the building boom because there are a lot of people lining up behind me,” said Alan.
He said Custom Collision was the first body shop in the county to have a bake-on paint booth. Now his business has two.
“We’re a repair center for several major insurance companies,” said Alan. “We do a lot of volume, but we still have friendly, one-on-one service. We are going to make our customers happy.”
When Custom Collision got its start, there were just two employees, Alan and David McKinley, who still remains after 25 years. The staff has grown to 11 employees and Alan says the current building expansion will lead to more employees. He also hinted that Custom Collision has started the process of opening a shop in another county. That sounds interesting.
When Tri-State Development finishes the Custom Collision expansion, the upcoming schedule will include a new building for an expansion at Quality Mold. Also on the agenda is a project to build a massive 103,000-square-foot spec building in Manchester.
“We will build the shell, but we won’t pour the slab,” said Keith of the Manchester spec building. “Every industry is different. An industry may come in and want a building that requires pits for its presses. In that case, we would have to tear out the concrete slab we’ve already poured so it’s better to build it without the slab.”
The surge in commercial building work shows our area is enjoying economic fitness. When companies add space, the next logical step is to add employees.
When a commercial contractor is busy with a line of building projects, that means life is like a warm apple pie.

It’s brisk time for Industrial board

I talked with Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander on Friday and he told me what a hectic time it’s been with steady interest in our area from automotive companies.
“Interest has really picked up since the announcement of our Advanced Robotics Center,” said Don.
It was Nov. 15 when the state announced a $5.5 million grant for Motlow College to construct the Advanced Robotics Center. It is hoped the facility will be operational in January 2018. For companies looking for places to expand, having a high-tech training facility nearby is certainly an attractive incentive.
“The No. 1 thing industry used to look for when considering places to expand was site development,” said Don. “Now it’s changed and the No. 1 thing they want is a skilled workforce. They’re having trouble finding people who can do the job. This robotics center shows we are in touch with their needs.”
I mentioned a spec building Tri-State Development will be constructing in Manchester earlier in this column. Our community just received a $445,500 grant from the state for site development at Mt. View Industrial Park. The money will be used to get land graded and level so it’s ready for all the industrial manufacturers which are considering Warren County.
“We’re in a great spot,” said Don. “There aren’t many communities that are halfway between the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and the Nissan plant in Smyrna. This groundwork will help because the automotive industry works at such a rapid pace, there’s not much time to stand around and wait for a plant to be constructed.”

Mall seeks more stores

Brook Holmes has settled into her new job as manager of Three Star Mall since landing the position at the end of December. Building confidence, Brook is eager to get some of the empty spaces at the mall filled with tenants.
“I’d really like to get another food business in here, maybe someone who will sell pizza by the slice,” said Brook, indicating the old Cookie Shop would be a perfect spot. That’s the location directly across from J’s Restaurant for the folks who can't remember where the Cookie Shop once was.
There are several vacancies inside the mall like the old Bookland, the old Radio Shack, the old Claire’s, and the old jewelry store. Brook says she’s motivated to get these spots leased and I think that’s a charming idea. Give me stores and I've proven, time and time again, I will shop.
In an effort to take full advantage of the mall and all its possibilities, Brook has started having live entertainment on Friday afternoons from noon to 2 p.m. Kevin Myers and Barry Bloodworth entertained this past Friday, filling the mall with the soothing sounds of guitar and flute.
Brook says the Friday afternoon schedule is booked for about a month, but anyone interested in performing on center stage can give her a call at 473-1515. Keep in mind, the idea is to sound good to attract a crowd, not drive people away.
Also of note, the mall is having a two-day bake sale this coming Friday and Saturday, April 14-15. If you are affiliated with a nonprofit organization and would like to earn some extra money for your cause, you can rent a booth for $20.
Last, and perhaps least, the Easter Bunny can be found at the mall’s center stage this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This should be baskets of fun for the young and old so don’t miss out.

Liquor store count grows

The question of how many liquor stores Warren County can support is going to be answered. By my unofficial count, four people have now applied to receive a certificate of compliance from the city of McMinnville to open a liquor store.
After gaining city approval, the process moves to the state level. This is where it supposedly gets maddening and laborious.
Here's what we know thus far. Sid Patel wants to put a liquor store in Newtown and Mike Patel wants to put one close to The Strip at what used to be BJ’s Discount. I’ve already reported on that.
This past week I’ve learned Kevel Sheth has purchased the old Don’s Supply building on Sparta Street to convert to a liquor store and Bhumih Patel wants to put a liquor store on South Chancery Street next to his Gulf station.
If the state approves all four requests, that’s a lot of liquor for one town. Do we really drink that much?
I had a chance to talk to Kevel Sheth on Friday afternoon and get his thoughts on his plans for the old Don’s Supply location. It’s a 15,000-square-foot building that Kevel hopes will become a liquor supercenter of sorts.
“I’m looking to make sure I have everything,” said Kevel. “I want to give this town the liquor store it deserves. Liquor is something we tried to get for years. It’s something we fought for. Now that we have it, I want to create an experience for everyone who comes in. Whether you’re coming in for a wedding, a family event, or whatever, we’ll have it.”
Kevel has years of experience in the hospitality industry. His family owns the Best Western Tree City Inn, which is just a few doors away from the old Don’s Supply building on Sparta Street.
Kevel says he knows from working at Best Western how often the motel customers request liquor.
“It’s all the time,” he said. “We are asked constantly.”
Kevel has a couple aces up his sleeve on why he thinks his store, to be named Tree City Wine and Spirits, will work. For starters, he grew up in McMinnville and went to school here and believes he has a good feel for the community. Also on his side, his in-laws have operated a liquor store in Nashville for years so he is already familiar with the business.
When talking about liquor stores, it’s important to note they must be located inside McMinnville city limits. Right now there’s interest from four people on four different sides of town. My thinking is this is the max we can support.

That’s all folks

Egg hunts await. If you can find the golden egg, keep it close to your heart.
Phone in business tips at 473-2191. You will be happy you did.