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Business Cheetah 7-24
Primm leaves lasting impact
Doan Sullivan is pictured at Sullivan Lumber at Depot Bottom. He worked with Joe Primm to ship lumber to China and Vietnam. "He sure had a positive influence on me," said Doan when asked about Joe Primm.

I’m going to start today’s business column with a short tribute to a man who had as much of an impact on Warren County’s economic success over the past dozen years as anyone who comes to mind.
His name was Joe Primm and he died Monday in China at the age of 59.
It was around this time in 2004 when Carrier was staggering and taking its final breaths in Warren County. P&R Trading swooped in and bought the nearly 1-million-square foot building. While Carrier was still in operation. P&R Trading, owned by Mr. Primm and Tom Robinson, paid $2 million for the facility.
When you consider the state wanted the city of McMinnville to spend $300,000 to renovate a basement at City Hall for the Driver Testing Center, paying $2 million for the Carrier plant was the bargain of the century.
For those who remember back to those days, the economy wasn’t nearly as robust. Factories were shutting their doors in the United States and moving to Mexico or China. Thankfully, that’s a trend which hasn’t continued as the global economy has adjusted and more jobs are staying in America.
Joe made several trips to China in hopes of finding a company to lease the Carrier building because U.S. companies were not expanding.
“I feel comfortable we’ll bring jobs, but I want to bring good jobs,” Primm told me for a newspaper article in December 2004. “If we get a different type of industry for this area, you never know what will happen. Just look at when Nissan came to Smyrna and all of the related jobs it created.”
Store Opening Solutions, a warehouse company said to bring 100 jobs, was the first so-called “big” company to lease space at the Carrier building. SOS limped through what appeared to be an unproductive year in Warren County before closing its distribution center here.
Joe and Tom finally figured the best way to get the Carrier building filled was to treat it like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time. So they divided the space and leased it as needed. The strategy worked.
The old Carrier building is now bustling with energy as Yorozu and Miniature Precision Components both lease space there. Tennessee Warehouse has moved its global headquarters there, and Thermoflex has been at the Carrier building for around 10 years. After a long absence, SOS has even returned.
“We’re about full,” property manager Glen Moore told me Thursday. “We have roughly 850,000 square feet rented.”
Joe bought out Tom Robinson around three years ago and has been sole owner of the Carrier building ever since. He spent much of his time in Warren County, but he also spent time living in China and Vietnam where he was importing lumber.
“Joe was quite an entrepreneur,” said Moore. “This is really a shock to us because he felt fine, and 59 is still pretty young. He had a very positive influence on our community and he was working to make it an even bigger influence.”
In one of his most recent business ventures, Joe had partnered with Doan Sullivan at Sullivan Lumber at Depot Bottom. The two were exporting lumber from Middle Tennessee to China and Vietnam.
“Every stick of poplar we cut goes to China and Vietnam,” Doan told me at his lumber yard on Friday. “The USDA inspects it before it leaves the country.”
Stanley Dunn oversees the lumber exported to China, a business venture in its second year. The lumber is transported to Nashville by truck, then it goes from Nashville to port by rail. From there, it takes about two months to reach its final destination in the Orient.
“We started last year and shipped about 60 loads because we were just getting up and running,” said Stanley. “We’ve already shipped more than 100 this year.”
Exporting to China has helped Sullivan Lumber grow its business and Doan said he now has a workforce of 40 employees.
At this point no one is sure how Joe’s death will ultimately affect his business interests. It will have to be a wait-and-see approach as his estate is settled. The editors of Business Cheetah are proud to recognize his contributions to Warren County.

Industrial board eyes activity

Since helping to finance and construct a facility for DN Plastics on Manchester Highway in Morrison, the Industrial Development Board has been largely quiet.
IDB director Don Alexander is looking to break the silence and get industrial board members thinking about the future.
“I think this might be a good time to plan for a speculative building,” said Don. “Not build one, but plan for the type of building we want. A lot of times, the dimensions of the building determine the type of industry. Do we want the low-hanging fruit of the automotive industry or do we want to diversify a little bit to get all of our eggs out of one basket?”
The IDB has built three spec buildings and had success in finding companies to move into all three. That’s a perfect batting average. It stands to reason if Warren County were to build another spec building, it could get another company to locate here.
Industrial Development Board members talked about how food processing facilities have shown an interest in Warren County over the past two or three years, although we haven’t landed one. Don said the closest available spec building that’s move-in ready is some two hours away in Lawrenceburg. He said that building has a 31-foot ceiling and is 50,000 square feet.
In his first meeting serving as IDB president, Tommy Foster said the county trying to recruit industry without a suitable building is like a realtor trying to sell a house without a house.
“If realtors had to find a lot, and then build a house, we’d never sell anything,” said Tommy. “We need to inform the public on what we’re doing and why we need a spec building.”
I’m a firm believer if we do construct another spec building, we will find a company to locate here. And, like Don, I think it would be wise to diversify. The Tennessee economy is being driven by the automotive industry. We’re setting ourselves up for a magnificent belly flop if automotive companies ever decide to leave Tennessee the way they left Michigan.

A tribute to Linda Holland

I don’t want today’s column to be engulfed in sadness, but I can’t let the day go by without saying a few words about Linda Holland, the longtime owner of Main Street Bakery.
It was just two months ago I was writing about how Linda was closing Main Street Bakery and heading into retirement. She told me she wanted to retire while she was still healthy and active because she loved hiking and was anxious to move to East Tennessee and enjoy life there.
Her death on Tuesday was a surprise to me because Linda didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I know she worked full speed ahead at Main Street Bakery keeping that business running smoothly for 12 years and she did a great job.
Linda weathered the storm in downtown McMinnville when the area was in shambles. It was her determination which made Main Street Bakery a success. She’s a lady who will be missed.

There’s light in the cave

For being a dark cave, the future keeps getting brighter for Cumberland Caverns. Last weekend an estimated 350 visitors came to Cumberland Caverns for a meditation and sound therapy event that featured wholesome food provided by Juicy’s and guided visualization and sound meditation by Tre James.
Last weekend’s gathering was a corporate event for LuluLemon Athletica, an upscale fitness clothing provider. LuleLemon treated executives from all over the Southeast to the event, which will no doubt pay dividends to Warren County.
When these executives return to their hometowns, they will hopefully have glowing comments about Cumberland Caverns and this community. They might even say, “You’ve got to see it.” This is the kind of publicity we need.
Last weekend’s event was organized by LuluLemon and was by invitation only. But don’t fret. If you’d like to participate in cave yoga and meditation at Cumberland Caverns, an event is scheduled for this coming Saturday, July 30 from 9 to 11 a.m.
Mary Beth Laxson of Juicy’s will be providing a talk about nutrition. Tracy Martin will discuss the benefits of body detoxification. Michelle Grandey will be conducting a beginner yoga session, and Tre James will be doing her sound meditation program.
The event is donation only and all money raised will benefit nonprofit charities such as Share It Forward and Juice It Forward.
“I’m so excited we’re starting to be known as a wellness community and we want to get more people involved with the wellness aspect,” said Tracy. “From a place that used to be known as Meth-Minnville, I’m pretty proud about this.”
As someone who’s a firm believer in the benefits of proper diet and exercise, I’m glad to see Mary Beth, Tracy, and the gang gaining traction with their programs. If you’d like more information on how to get started, visit Cumberland Caverns on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.
For more information, email Kelly Roberts at

That’s all folks

Business tips are always encouraged. Call 473-2191.