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Business Cheetah 8-13
Jackson Kayak finds lucrative waters
Lets hope our Applebees at Cumberland Plaza is not one of the 105 to 135 restaurants scheduled to close.

For those of you who may have missed the announcement, our Industrial Development Board has a new member. Feel free to cheer.
It’s McMinnville resident, Pistole Park youth soccer coach, and Jackson Kayak accountant Scot MacDonald.
It’s been my time-honored tradition to feature members of the IDB when they become appointed. In this case, I was especially eager to talk with Scot because I’ve long wanted to tour the booming Jackson Kayak facility to see boats made from scratch.
I was not disappointed.
As I’ve mentioned before, I had the chance to see the Jackson Kayak operation when it first began some 13 years ago. Back then, it was located in a tiny building overlooking Rock Island State Park. The entire facility seemed about the size of my living room and I wondered if the business had much of a future.
It’s sufficient to say times have changed. Jackson Kayak is now located in a massive, 330,000-square-foot facility on McMinnville Highway in White County. It’s not far over the county line in what’s known as the old Phillips Lighting building. That’s where the kayaks are produced from start to finish. Almost 100 percent of the entire process is done in house.
A separate 120,000-square-foot facility is located just a few miles away on Iris Drive. That’s where the high-end Orion coolers are manufactured. These coolers are seen as a status symbol because there’s a limited demographic willing to fork over $400, or more, for a cooler.
These two manufacturing plants are not in Warren County, but Jackson Kayak is part of our community. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t pay attention to our local fundraisers that give away a Jackson Kayak seemingly every weekend.
It’s fitting to have Scot on our IDB because Warren County is hustling to get more outdoor-related tourism revenue and Jackson Kayak is most definitely in the outdoor market. The company has distributors all over the world and has sold boats in countries such as Fiji, China, Finland and Russia.
“We distribute to pretty much every continent,” said Scot. “I think it would be great if we could bring some more tourism-related businesses to Warren County. I’m interested in developing the tourism side of McMinnville.”
Jackson Kayak has a workforce of 170 and Scot tells me they ship around 20,000 boats per model year. Much like cars, the new model year for boats is fast approaching with the 2018 styles arriving in September.
I had the chance to see the entire operation Thursday morning. Scot and sales representative Jeff Leach were kind enough to show me the process and answer all my questions.
It all starts with colored plastic that’s ground so fine it slips through your fingers like sand. That plastic is put in a metal mold, placed in an oven the size of a school bus, and heated to temperatures around 700 degrees.
It’s because of these ovens, Jackson Kayak operates 24 hours a day. It would waste too much energy allowing the ovens to cool, Scot says, so they are kept in constant use.
When the kayak is first removed from the mold, the plastic is still warm and pliable. The cockpit is immediately cut out and any rough edges are trimmed away to make the boat smooth. After allowing time for the plastic to cool and harden, many accessories are added. This includes seat, cup holder, fishing apparatus, dry box, and other gear.
Jeff said if the moon and stars aligned perfectly to assemble a kayak from start to finish without stopping, one boat could be made in three to four hours. But as it’s done, boats are made in stages and seldom straight through.
That’s because the oven stage is slightly slower with a capacity of producing 100 boats a day. The finishing side is faster and can finish 150 boats a day. It’s for that reason, Jackson Kayak is installing an enormous new oven to even the two processes.
Jackson Kayak has everything from sturdy fishing boats to nifty sport kayaks capable of going over waterfalls. The products are constantly evolving and a catamaran is even on the horizon.
“Our boat sales have exploded mainly due to our level of quality and our constant development,” said Jeff. “We are changing and getting better all the time. We’re not stagnant. We listen to customer feedback and we take that into account when we build our next boats.”
Jackson Kayak does not sell coolers and kayaks directly to its customers. The company does not want to undermine its distributors so all sales are handled through them.
As for personal information about Scot, he’s married to the former Hunter Young, the daughter of veterinarians Sam and Linda Young. Originally from Jonesboro, Ark., he’s lived in Warren County for the past six years. Scot is also a member of Main Street McMinnville.
The editors of Business Cheetah congratulate Scot on his IDB appointment. May he bring go-carts and mini golf to McMinnville.

Please stay Applebee’s

The news is not a bed of rainbows when it comes to the Applebee’s chain. Its parent company, DineEquity, has announced it will close between 105 and 135 Applebee’s restaurants.
To add an extra layer of anxiety, DineEquity has declined to release a list of locations that will be closed.
My main concern is our friendly Applebee’s here in McMinnville. I want our restaurant to remain open because it’s great.
In talking to local management on Friday, it is not believed our Applebee’s will be one of the stores that closes. The restaurant here is profitable, I was told, so hopefully that puts us in the clear.
Local managers have been keeping a close eye on the Applebee’s landscape and noticed six restaurants have closed in Tennessee over the last few years, including three recently. I read in the Cookeville newspaper where the Applebee’s there on Interstate Drive closed two years ago.
So let’s keep our fingers crossed and say a prayer at bedtime for our local Applebee’s. It's a valuable part of McMinnville and our restaurant offerings. Please don’t go. We love you so.

Brown plunges into local market

Experienced plumber and electrician Cliff Brown has taken the plunge into the local market and opened a business in Warren County. His first day was Monday.
Cliff had been making the long, long drive to Clarksville every day to work at Jim’s Plumbing & Electric. That drive finally got old so Cliff, who is a Morrison resident, decided to go into business for himself. He can be reached at (931) 259-3931.
“I’m licensed to do plumbing and electrical work,” said Cliff. “My phone has been ringing steady since I started on Monday. I cover most of Middle Tennessee right now, but I’d like to stay closer to home if enough work picks up.”
Cliff says he’s putting the finishing touches on a locker room project he’s doing at an out-of-town gym. He did all the plumbing and electrical work for the locker room himself.
Cliff says he can do large commercial projects or any type of residential repair. He can do simple work like unclogging a sink, or more advanced projects like installing an upflush system.
In case you’re wondering, as I was, an upflush system is used when installing a toilet in a basement that’s below the rest of the plumbing system. When that happens, a pump must be used to upflush the sewage to connect it to the outflowing pipes.
When it comes to electrical work, Cliff can perform basic jobs like installing a light fixture, or more advanced projects like a system upgrade with a new fuse box. He’s ready to work at the wee hours of the night when an emergency strikes.
“I’m available 24 hours a day. That’s part of the job,” said Cliff. “If a water heater bursts at midnight, give me a call and I’ll come out.”
I know it can sometimes be difficult to get a serviceman to show up at your house. If you’ve experienced those problems, or have a project you’d like for him to address, Cliff is ready to fill your plumbing and electric needs.

Robotics delays

It was announced in November 2016 that Motlow College had been awarded $5.5 million from the state to build an advanced robotics center. At the time of that major announcement, the center was scheduled to open and begin classes in January 2018.
If it seemed like a ridiculously fast turnaround time to transform an overgrown field into a first-rate training facility, it was. That's why the opening of our robotics center has been pushed back to October 2018.
“The first estimates for January, I think everybody thought that was a very aggressive estimate,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander. “I think we’re moving along pretty well and working with the Tennessee Board of Regents since the grant money is coming from them. We’d like to start offering classes as soon as possible because there’s a demand. It’s what our industry here needs.”
Don said initial dirt work is now scheduled to begin this October and he doesn’t yet have a projection of when building construction may start. The robotics center will be located near Motlow next to Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
It’s billed as a facility which will attract people from all over the Southeast, possibly beyond, to receive training on the advanced robotics equipment used in manufacturing. It’s expected to give Warren County a boost like a rocket ship when it’s operational.

That’s all folks

School is back is session and our children are learning. If you happen to learn of any business tips, give me a call at 473-2191.