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Pody continues to sell hotel tax to lawmakers

Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:57 PM

State Rep. Mark Pody said he is "not going to be deterred" in his attempts to reach an agreement for a private act to help fund an Expo Center in Wilson County.

"It is my obligation to carry out my duty to serve, and I am going to fight as hard as I can for my locals and to stand up for Wilson County," Pody said Wednesday.

The private act asks for a 3-percent increase in the hotel/motel tax, however, the language is under negotiation. Pody said last week had discussions with "the hotel/motel folks" to determine a solution that would be agreeable to all parties.

He sat down for a meeting with Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto to discuss where they want to go from here in terms of the act.

"We know we have to keep going," Pody said.

A feasibility study conducted by Middle Tennessee State University regarding the Expo Center was presented in December.

The study was based, in part, on a survey given to 106 local businesses. Questions included whether the business would use the facility for any functions or events, how much the business was willing to pay for hotel accommodations and a couple of others.

“We surveyed local businesses to identify the demand for meeting space,” Murak Arik with MTSU said during his presentation.

The study also used peer counties, those of similar size to Wilson County, to determine a baseline for the number of employees that the center would have as well as projected costs and revenue, Arik said.

For the center’s initial year of operation, the study estimates there would be $16 million in business revenue and the creation of 135 jobs. Once the center has become stabilized, the study estimates a revenue stream of $4.8 million per year.

"What we're trying to do at the Ag Center is increase the ability to get more folks to use it," said Commissioner Jeff Joines, an advocate of the project. "Now there is not enough climate-controlled space for conventions there."

The proposed center would be around 80,000 square feet and large enough to handle trade shows and conventions. The building, which would be placed front and center near the main entrance to the Ag Center, would include office space, a stage and commercial-grade kitchen. He said the center would make Wilson County a viable choice for business, civic and athletic events the county cannot accommodate now.

The original vote to send the private act on to the legislature happened during the commission's Dec. 16 meeting.

"I want to bring everybody together and get something that is fair and equitable to all concerned," Pody said.

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