Jared Felkins: Leadership Wilson tackles best in business, industry

Most days at 7:15 a.m., I’m just rolling out of bed with groggy eyes searching for focus to eagerly start another day. Yeah right.
Nov 9, 2013
Jared Felkins

“Everyone who's ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

— Nolan Bushnell

Editor’s Note: The following is an ongoing column series that takes an inside look at Leadership Wilson’s class of 2014, undoubtedly the best class…ever.

Most days at 7:15 a.m., I’m just rolling out of bed with groggy eyes searching for focus to eagerly start another day. Yeah right.

Most days when the clock in the Felkins’ home strikes 7:15 a.m., it signals the five-minute warning we need to walk out the door. And when I say warning, I mean there are several issued to our three children to get moving.

Last Wednesday, however, I left the warnings to my wonderful wife as I pulled into the parking lot rather erratically to meet my class of 2014 mates for another fun-filled outing in Leadership Wilson.

I’ll admit, however, my groggy eyes didn’t perk until director Dorie Mitchell made the comment, “hopefully we will have an Oprah moment,” while at Wilson County Motors later that morning.

Unfortunately our hosts, the General Motors dealership’s owners Paine and Mitchel Bone, were quick to dispel the notion.

What the Bone brothers did do was provide an inside look into the inner workings at the new state-of-the-art sales and service center on Hartmann Drive, as well as their eye on the future.

Credit to Mitchell, her wishful thinking was a nice try.

While at Wilson County Motors, we also heard from Joint Economic and Community Development Board director G.C. Hixson, Mt. Juliet-West Wilson Chamber of Commerce director Mark Hinesley and Mt. Juliet Chief Building Official Jay Carneli on the state of business and industry with a focus on west Wilson County. In short, the future looks bright.

Our tour continued to the Lebanon Municipal Airport as we pulled up next to a LifeFlight helicopter. The crew on duty gave us an interesting look into a typical day when the mundane can turn to critical response within seconds.

We also heard from Lebanon Municipal Airport Rick Dyment, who explained how important a friendly reception could be when a potential business or industry official visits. He said the people at the airport can often be the first impression made in these situations.

From there, the class moved on to the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s 99-acre campus, where Steve Smotherman led us on an intensive inside look at operations.

We were taken through the vast warehouse that holds the treasures that adorn the walls of Cracker Barrel restaurants across the nation. A massive undertaking, the warehouse resembled a much more colorful likening to what one might recall the place where the Ark of the Covenant is mythically housed in the first Indiana Jones movie.

We also got to see behind the curtain at what may be coming to Cracker Barrel retail stores in the future. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal any secrets, but trust me, it’s impressive.

After dining on the best in home-away-from-home cooking, we were treated to an inspirational, yet rather simple, look into Cracker Barrel’s business strategies from Thomas Pate, vice president of training management.

With full bellies and minds, our excursion moved to Capitol Theatre, the vision come true for owners Pam and Bob Black. The newly renovated venue plays host to concerts, events, movies and more on the Lebanon square.

The group then took turns weaving in and out of businesses on the square and were treated to exclusive looks at renovations going on at the Arcade and the future home of Crystal Couture there’s a lot going on where history meets a new vision of doing business in Lebanon.

The class regrouped around the massive conference room table at the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce. Historic Lebanon director Kim Parks gave an overview of Lebanon in years gone by. Chamber president Sue Vanatta presented us with a vision of business in the city.

The day ended with the class touring the inner workings at Lebanon Publishing Co., and yours truly made an attempt at tour guide. The class appeared to be particularly impressed with everything that goes into publishing Wilson County’s only daily newspaper. Advertising representatives Traci Walker and Cathy Wair explained the revenue-generating side of things while The Democrat’s editorial staff talked about gathering news and information, as well as its new app now available. Production director Mark Rodgers and pressroom foreman Richard Knowles explained the technical side of the operation.

We were able to showcase Wilson County’s only newspaper press, and each class member received a special edition printed just for them, featuring a photo of the class taken when they arrived.

It was a whirlwind day, but I know we all have a new appreciation for business and industry in Wilson County. With leadership like this in place, it makes me sleep better at night.

Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.

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