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Growth affects county needs
Nov 03, 2012 4:00 pm
Wilson County officials – at both the county and municipal levels – are working to keep pace with the county’s recent growth.
“We’ve done a good job of preparing for it,” said G.C. Hixson, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County.
“Demographically, you can look at the raw numbers and see the increases in population,” said Hixson.
Wilson County’s population increased from 88,809 in 2000 to 113,993 in 2010 – an increase of more than 28 percent – according to U.S. Census figures.
“The immediate sign of this growth is what it does in the education system,” said Hixson.
From 2000-10, Wilson County Schools’ student population increased from 11,526 to 15,408 – an increase of more than 33 percent, and Lebanon Special School District’s student population increased from 2,819 to 3,327 – an increase of 18 percent, according to the report, “Building Tennessee’s Tomorrow: Anticipating the State’s Infrastructure Needs,” from the Tennessee Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
To keep up with this growth, Wilson County Schools are implementing a comprehensive building program.
“Of our four high schools, the oldest one is 11 years old,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “We think this is pretty good.”
Hixson cites an increasing number of apartment, townhome and condo communities as an indicator of a growing and changing demographic within Wilson County.
“Demographics are changing in that we’re getting more density housing,” said Hixson. “We’re becoming more of a satellite community.”
This increased population density also benefits county residents and county coffers in a variety of ways.
“Retail follows the demographics and the density,” said Hixson.
Retail accounted for the majority of Wilson County jobs at 17.2 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Manufacturing provided the second-most number of jobs in the county and industrial sites such as the Maddox-Simpson site and the new Amazon facility have helped create those jobs, which also provide the county’s highest average salary at almost $52,000, according to the Department of Labor.
These industries not only pay wages, but they also pay property and sales taxes.
“Having those institutions in your community is a revenue source,” said Hixson. “It keeps taxes lower for everybody.”
“I think with more people, there’s no question it brings in more revenue – sales tax, property tax and wheel tax,” said Hutto. “But it also brings in expenses to go along with that, so I think it may even things out.”
“At this point in time, we’re in good shape, but you have to continue to look at the demands,” said Hixson. “We are in a changing world, and if you want government services, they have to be paid for in some way.”
Many road projects – such as the construction of State Route 840 and the widening of State Route 109 – are paid for by the state; water and wastewater infrastructure projects are paid for by rates and fees charged to customers; many other projects, however, are paid for through county property and sales tax revenues.
“Our goal on the revenue side is to increase the sales tax in Wilson County by generating tourism and shopping areas,” said Hutto. “The more sales tax you have, the less you have to tax the property owner.”
Significant community growth can have some drawbacks, though, including traffic congestion.
“It certainly does change traffic patterns and demands on the system,” said Hixson.
The key to minimizing those drawbacks involves planning ahead, he said.
The benefits of this growth, though, include not only financial benefits but also more intangible benefits.
“It brings in quality people, new friendships, people with innovative ideas, people that want to start businesses here – and maybe businesses that we haven’t had here before in the small business world,” said Hutto. “When you bring different folks in, it gives new opportunities for things to happen.”
Staff writer Sara McManamy-Johnson can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.