Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board director G.C. Hixson gave several indications Wilson County was popular among businesses and industries looking to locate locally.
At a quarterly board meeting Tuesday, Hixson said several companies indicated their interest in sites across Wilson County during the past three months. He attributed the successful recruitment to an improving economy.
Hixson said his office received 32 detailed proposals from industries during the second quarter, as well as nine proposals from retail and commercial businesses.
“There’s a 20-percent increase in the number of proposals we are receiving compared to last year,” Hixson said.
In addition, Hixson said existing industries made significant progress during the second quarter, as well. He highlighted the former Toshiba plan was turned into the Lebanon Industrial Park and housed Novamet and Drive Time with more space available to add additional industries.
“It’s being converted,” Hixson said. “You’re going to see several hundred people working out there.”
In addition, Mt. Juliet City Planner Kenny Martin said he planned to meet with representatives with a retail grocery chain Wednesday and recently met with officials with Whataburger. He said Jimmy Johns restaurant opens Wednesday in Mt. Juliet with Chuck-E-Cheese to follow soon.
Hixson added Starbucks and Panda Express opened within the last two weeks to customers in Lebanon.
Royce Sladen, a board member who works at Orchid Automotive on Belinda City Boulevard in Mt. Juliet, said he met with a consulting company recently. The company was contracted by an unknown industry to ask questions about Wilson County’s labor force.
“They are looking predominately at Middle Tennessee. Their product is machine,” Sladen said. “I have been in the industry for about 10-12 years.”
Sladen said the company would offer about 100 high school-level or tech school-level jobs, bringing about 40 at the start and adding about 120 within the first two years. He said the wages would be between $13-$30 per hour.
Hixson said one potential industry his office courted for about six months, however, chose to locate in Michigan. Codenamed Project Wattle, he said it was a Chinese manufacturer that made aluminum wheels for vehicles.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Hixson welcomed new Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. Wright said she recently finalized a contract with the Tennessee Board of Regents to bring the College of Applied Technology to Lebanon.
Contracts on the tech college were delayed for more than a year by the Wilson County Board of Education, which added stipulations to the agreement at the time. The new college will be housed in the former Wilson County Career Technical Center facility behind the old Lebanon High School.
Carol Puryear, associate vice chancellor for instruction and special projects with the Board of Regent’s Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, said in July 2013 she hoped classes could begin at the new college by the beginning of this year.