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New facility bringing 1,200 jobs to Wilson County

Wilson County finally has an answer to which major distribution company is going to be setting up shop in Mt. Juliet, and it’s one that all pet parents will recognize — Chewy, Inc.

On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Chewy Inc. officials announced that the company will establish a new regional e-commerce fulfillment center that will create 1,200 new jobs.

The new facility will be located at Couchville Pike and Maddox Road in Mt. Juliet, and is projected to open in fall 2022.

Chewy has been a prominent name in the pet supply industry as an online retailer of pet food and other pet-related products. In 2017, Chewy was acquired by PetSmart for $3.35 billion, which was the largest ever acquisition of an e-commerce business at the time.

The business has been called a leading innovator in pet e-commerce, offering broad selections of more than 2,000 of the best and most trusted brands including pet products, supplies and prescriptions.

According to a release from the governor’s office, Wilson County continues to attract companies in the transportation, distribution and logistics sector. Since 2020, more than 80% of new jobs committed in Wilson County have come from projects in this industry. Wilson County is within 650 miles of 50% of the U.S. population and a terested in employment opportunities can go to www.chewy.com/jobs to learn more.

Over the last five years, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has supported more than 15 economic development projects in Wilson County, resulting in 2,500 job commitments and roughly $750 million in capital investment.

“Wilson County has seen tremendous job growth in the last few years as companies continue to relocate and expand in the region,” said Lee. “Chewy’s decision to locate its newest e-fulfillment operations in Tennessee underscores our state’s pro-business climate and skilled workforce. These 1,200 new jobs will have a significant impact on Wilson County, and I appreciate Chewy for choosing Tennessee.”

Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness said the business’s decision to open in Mt. Juliet reflects how the city’s economy is continuing to grow, adding, “we are happy they picked our city.”

Meanwhile, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto called the news of the Chewy facility a “welcomed honor.”

Hutto added, “We appreciate Chewy’s vote of confidence in our community and look forward to developing a long-term partnership.”

The county mayor also thanked the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County for its role in bringing the business to Wilson County.

State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, said she welcomed Chewy to the city with “open arms,” and thanked the state’s conservative policies for bringing in business. “This is one more company moving to Tennessee because of our low taxes, minimal regulation and business-friendly climate.”

Fallen Marine finally home

Seventy-five years after Japan surrendered, a fallen WWII Marine is finally returning to Lebanon after it was discovered that the previous remains sent back to Wilson County had been misidentified.

Capt. Edward Glenn Walker Jr. was the son of a county judge who practically brought Lebanon into the 20th century through infrastructure projects and the building of schools. He was also a Harvard Law School student, but when war broke out, he enlisted in the Marine Corps to serve his country and was shipped off to the Pacific Theater.

County Commissioner and self-described historian Jerry McFarland told the story of Walker’s life, tragically cut short on the island of Tarawa, during the commission’s monthly meeting Monday. Tarawa is oft remembered for the devastating losses that befell American soldiers attempting an amphibious assault of the narrow atoll that held a strategically vital airfield.

The official number of troops killed, per the Marine Corps, was 1,009. Walker was one of the unfortunate members of this assault, who would not return from the atoll. According to McFarland, as was often the case in the war, deceased soldiers were buried where they took their last breath.

After the war, the US government set out to exhume these graves and send the remains back to their families stateside.

A couple years later, remains that were believed to be Walker were returned to Lebanon and buried at Wilson County Memorial Gardens. However, thanks to modern technology, it was discovered that Walker’s remains were actually buried in Hawaii. So now the remains of the soldier believed to be Walker will be exhumed from their resting place and returned to Hawaii with hopes of properly identifying who he was.

A nephew of Walker’s, Lane Martin of Lebanon, said that, “We’re extremely happy that this has been resolved. It brings closure to something that happened to our family a long time ago.”

Martin added, “It has initiated a family reunion almost for us. We’re expecting 100 cousins and family members at the service this weekend.”

Martin said he was overcome with emotion when the plane landed in Nashville carrying his Uncle Glenn. “Today was a powerful moment. To see Glenn finally coming home was special and the scene at the airport amazing.”

Walker was killed in action before his nephew would be born, but Martin said that through stories from his mother and grandmother he learned about the exceptional man that his uncle was. “I just wish they were alive to see this,” he said.

When the procession made its way onto Hartmann Drive, Martin said he almost had to let his wife take the wheel of the van he was driving because seeing the Lebanon Fire Department trucks and Lebanon Police who picked up the escort for the final leg of the route set in the realization that his uncle was finally home.

Martin has learned a lot about his uncle through letters written by the latter. He was surprised to learn that while attending Harvard Law School, Walker was classmates with Joe Kennedy, the older brother of President John F. Kennedy, who was killed in action in Europe during the war.

Walker’s remains were flown from Dallas into Nashville airport, unloaded by military personnel and delivered by procession to Lebanon’s Ligon & Bobo Funeral Home, where a short ceremony was held in his honor. Escorting the hearse that carried Walker from the airport were members of law enforcement but also over 150 veteran bikers who showed up to pay their respects.

One of these veterans, retired Chief Warrant Officer Paul Bosch, of the Combat Veteran’s Association, said being a part of the procession was quite an honor, however, he said, “I was more honored that this many veterans from so many branches came out and realized what kind of soldier this man was back in 1943. The end result is no soldier wants to be left unaccounted for especially if it’s in another country, so this means a lot to anybody that’s been in the service, not to mention just the combat vets.”

Another rider and Air Force veteran, Quake Spencer, of Gallatin, similarly said he was “honored to be able to escort a World War Two veteran home,” after so many years.

A service is scheduled to be held at Fairview Church, 1660 Leeville Pike, Lebanon, on Saturday at 3 p.m. Afterward, Walker will be taken to the Wilson County Memorial Gardens for a burial with full military honors.

County picks panel to begin redistricting process

Following the updated census, it’s time for countywide redistricting, which means a committee needed to be appointed to settle the matter about how the Wilson County commissioners’ districts would be drawn. These new numbers will also impact school districts and road zones.{/span}

Per Wilson County bylaws, the five-person committee comprises county commissioners elected by their colleagues. During the commission’s monthly meeting Monday, the commissioners voted for Jerry McFarland, Justin Smith, Terry Ashe, Tommy Jones and Annette Stafford to fill these positions.

Nominations for each seat were made during the meeting, and when put to the commission required at least 13 votes to claim the seat. Of the five seats on the committee, four are selected based on the road zones, while the fifth and final seat is selected at-large without this requirement. Only commissioners within the specific road zone can nominate a commissioner to fill that seat.

For Stafford and Ashe, it was a non-contest as only one person was nominated for their respective seats. Stafford was selected to fill the at-large seat, while Ashe was selected for road zone 3. Stafford said that she was “happy to take on the role.”

Ashe said of his appointment, “It’s a role you have to take seriously. It’s time consuming and a lot of homework. But I think it’s a good board that was selected.”

Meanwhile, the other three roles were filled after a vote was taken. Only 22 of the 25 commissioners were present, so vote totals will reflect that number. For road zone 1, Sue Vanatta nominated McFarland, while McFarland nominated Kenny Reich. McFarland won with the minimum 13 votes in a close race.

Of his appointment to the seat for road zone 1, McFarland said he was “very honored.”

The commissioner added that they will base the districts on results from the latest census so that each of the 25 districts are fair and democratically representative.

McFarland said that at present, some of the districts have skewed considerably, offsetting the power of each one’s respective representation. He attributed this to growth that has spiked in some places more than others. He said he would like to see careful consideration taken, and hearings held to make the process “as clear as possible.”

“Hopefully we can make it a comfortable redistricting,” he said.

In road zone 2, Lauren Breeze and an absent Smith squared off in a vote. It wasn’t particularly close, with Smith taking 19 of the 22 possible votes.

The road zone 4 vote was a bit closer. The two nominees were John Gentry and Jones, with Jones ultimately securing the necessary number of votes to claim the seat.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said he appreciated the commissioners who accepted their seats for “being willing to serve,” adding, “It is a difficult job to do.”

According to Wilson County Administrator of Elections Phillip Warren, the county has until December to approve of the new county lines.

Warren explained that once the census numbers are certified, the committee will be able to properly designate the zones, with the ultimate goal of one man one vote. The election official did clarify that the census does not just count eligible voters but every man, woman and child in its totals.

Bipartisan infrastructure bill fails first vote

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans rejected an effort Wednesday to begin debate on a big infrastructure deal that a bipartisan group of senators brokered with President Joe Biden. But supporters in both parties remained hopeful of another chance in coming days.

Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York had scheduled the procedural vote that he described as a step to “get the ball rolling” as talks progress. But Republicans mounted a filibuster, saying the bipartisan group needed more time to wrap up the deal and review the details. They sought a delay until Monday.

The party-line vote was 51-49 against proceeding, short of the 60 “yes” votes needed to get past the Republicans’ block. The Democratic leader switched his vote to “no” at the end, a procedural step that would allow him to move to reconsider.

The nearly $1 trillion measure over five years includes about $579 billion in new spending on roads, broadband and other public works projects — a first phase of Biden’s infrastructure agenda, to be followed by a much broader $3.5 trillion second measure from Democrats next month.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a lead negotiator, flashed a thumbs up sign as he ducked into a private lunch before the vote, indicating the senators had sent Schumer a letter seeking more time. “We will be ready by the end of this week,” he said during a CNBC interview.

Six months after Biden took office, his signature “Build Back Better” campaign promise is at a key moment that will test the presidency and his hopes for a new era of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.

Biden, who headed to Ohio later Wednesday to promote his economic policies, is calling his infrastructure agenda a “blue-collar blueprint for building an American economy back.” He has said that Americans are overwhelmingly in support of his plan.

However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said big spending is “the last thing American families need.”

White House aides and the bipartisan group of senators have huddled privately every day since Sunday trying to wrap up the deal, which would be a first phase of an eventual $4 trillion-plus package of domestic outlays — not just for roads and bridges, but foundations of everyday life including child care, family tax breaks, education and an expansion of Medicare for seniors.

The next steps are uncertain, but the bipartisan group insists it is close to a deal and expects to finish soon. The senators were joined for a private lunch ahead of the vote by the two leaders of the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group generally supportive of the effort.

Senators from the Republican side asked to delay the vote, and 11 Republicans signed on to a letter to Schumer saying they would support moving forward with a yes vote on Monday, if certain details about the package are ready.

Schumer said senators are in the fourth week of negotiations after reaching agreement on a broad framework for infrastructure spending with the White House. He said Wednesday’s vote was not meant to be a deadline for having every detail worked out.

“My colleagues are well aware that we often agree to move forward with debates on issues before we have the text in hand,” Schumer said. “We’ve done it twice this year already.”

McConnell called the vote a “stunt” that would fail, but emphasized senators were “still negotiating in good faith across the aisle.”

“Around here, we typically write the bills before we vote on them,” he said.

A core group of Republicans are interested in pursuing a more modest package of traditional highway and public works projects, about $600 billion in new funds, and say they just need more time to negotiate with their Democratic colleagues and the White House.

Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana was among the Republicans who signed the letter seeking the delay and said he was “cautiously optimistic” they can reach a bipartisan deal.

Senators from the bipartisan group emerged upbeat Tuesday from another late-night negotiating session with Biden aides at the Capitol, saying a deal was within reach and a failed vote Wednesday would not be the end of the road.

In fact, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said the test vote Wednesday could be useful in helping to “advance and expedite” the process.

“We are so close,” said Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.

Biden has been in touch with both Democrats and Republicans for several days, and his outreach will continue “until he has both pieces of legislation on his desk to sign them into law,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

While Biden proposes paying for his proposals with a tax hike on corporations and wealthy Americans who earn more than $400,000 a year, the bipartisan group has been working almost around the clock to figure out a compromise way to pay for its package, having dashed ideas for boosting the gas tax drivers pay at the pump or strengthening the Internal Revenue Service to go after tax scofflaws.

Instead, senators in the bipartisan group are considering rolling back a Trump-era rule on pharmaceutical rebates that could bring in some $170 billion to be used for infrastructure. They are also still haggling over public transit funds.

Ten Republicans would have been needed in the evenly split Senate to join all 50 Democrats in reaching the 60-vote threshold required to advance the bill past a filibuster to formal consideration. Schumer can set another vote to proceed to the bill later.

Many Republicans are wary of moving ahead with the first, relatively slim package, fearing it will pave the way for the broader $3.5 trillion effort Democrats are preparing to pass on their own under special budget rules that only require 51 votes. Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been working to keep restless liberal Democrats in her chamber in line, as rank-and-file lawmakers grow impatient with the sluggish Senate pace.

“Time’s a-wasting, I want to get this work done,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters Tuesday.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, dismissed the Senate’s bipartisan effort as inadequate. He wants more robust spending on the transportation elements and said, “We want an opportunity to actually negotiate.”

Democrats hope to show progress on that bill before lawmakers leave Washington for their recess in August.