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This blog is authored by Mark Hinesley, Chamber President/CEO

Mark is the President/CEO of the Mt. Juliet/West Wilson County Chamber Of Commerce.

Our Water Is In Great Hands!

Last week I had a day that as far as most days for me go, was a bit out of the ordinary but one of the more interesting and informative days I have had in many years. Mr Freddie Weston, GM at West Wilson Utility District graciously provided me an opportunity to spend the better part of the day with him to see first-hand what all is involved in delivering fresh water to our community. I knew it was going to be an eye-opener and was I ever right! If you are like me, it is easy to take such a commodity for granted. I tried to think of a time when I went to turn on the water and had nothing coming out of the tap. Frankly, I could never remember such a time, which caused me to stop and appreciate how lucky we are in West Wilson County to have folks like this serving us.

Our first stops included site visits to their equipment supply and storage buildings, their maintenance and repair facilities (including their own on-site mini concrete plant), fabrication and machining shops, and all of the other huge pieces of equipment needed to run such a complex operation. Next stop was the intake facility located out on Old Hickory Lake where our fresh water supply begins. From there we headed to the actual treatment facility just up the road to see what all is involved in treating the water so we can enjoy an unending flow of safe, reliable and crystal clear drinking water.

That’s when things really got interesting as he showed me how a complex network of over 400 miles of underground pipes allowed them to provide this water many miles away from the plant. We saw water towers, pumping stations, boring machines (made in their own machine shop by their own employees) that are capable of boring under the Interstate and also capable of maneuvering up and down and side to side to lay pipe. They even have the ability to lay pipe in the ground and not disturb the surface soil. All in all it was a very enlightening day that makes me so much more appreciative of how blessed we are when it comes to fresh water.

Lots of places in our country are not nearly as lucky and some places are on the verge of actually running out of water. I found the entire experience to be very educational. Perhaps the thing that impressed me the most were the people I met along the way. With about 140 employees, it is remarkable the product they turn out. Everyone I met is a compliment to this company’s commitment to excellence and I hope you will join me in letting them know how much we appreciate what they do for us! To Freddie and everyone at WWUD…thanks for an awesome experience! See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com

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“Joy” to Our Community!

As most everyone likely knows by now, the city of Mt Juliet is the new owner of the former Joy Church building on Charlie Daniels Parkway. A bit of minor construction and interior re-configuration is currently underway in order to accommodate the new home for our city Police Department. In the next several months the police will be transitioning from their current location inside City Hall to these new offices. This move will free up a lot of badly needed office space in the current City Hall in order to consolidate other departments which are currently located in various other buildings nearby.

Joy Church made the space available for the City to purchase when the construction of their new worship space was complete in mid-January. And while the official property transaction certainly brought a lot of “joy” to the community, it is nothing compared to the “JOY” one feels when you walk inside their new church. Tonya and I had the opportunity to attend the first service as guests in their new church. I was both amazed and overwhelmed. There were well over 1,000 people in attendance and to say that place was hopping would be an understatement! Pastor Jim Frease and everyone there were so welcoming and gracious. Their commitment to making our community a special place to live and worship is unquestionable.

I was very impressed as I pulled onto the property to see the huge number of parking spaces, upon seeing the beautiful construction, well thought out facilities, and all of the modern conveniences and audio-visual technology. But the one thing that was very apparent as I made my way through the large crowd was the very diverse makeup of individuals and families that call Joy Church home. I told my friend it had the feel of a United Nations function. During the celebration it became obvious to me that such a sense is something that Pastor Frease is extremely committed to as their community grows. To all of my many new friends at Joy Church, thank you for the invitation and sincere hospitality.

The article I wrote in this space two weeks ago was about the nearly 400 residential building permits in the city during the year 2013 and how excited we are to have so many people from so many places moving here to call MJ home. If one needs validation on the diversity of our growing community, stop by Joy Church and just see for yourself. As our community becomes more and more diverse, we become more attractive to businesses, retailers, and office parks. It is a sincere compliment to everyone currently here that people of all walks of life find us to be such a welcoming community. It’s wonderful to live in a place that brings so much “joy” to so many people, in so many different ways! See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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Welcome to Our 364 New Neighbors!

The numbers are in and I’m excited to share with you that the final count of residential building permits (RBP’s) for the City of Mt Juliet in 2013 was 364 (source: City of MJ)! That is an incredible number of new home building permits. There are some communities in Tennessee that had single digit building permits and some likely even saw a decrease in their population. What do 364 RBP’s mean for us or say about us as a community? Obviously we all have a lot of new friends and new neighbors. But there is a LOT more to the story when you stop and think about it. 

 

There will of course be those who are simply upsizing or downsizing and are only moving from their existing home in MJ to a new home in MJ. But there are still many times those who are moving here from points yonder and in many of those cases they have no friends or family already living here. Think about that; these are people who likely have a choice of where they want to call home and they chose to come to MJ or Wilson County to live with us! Is there a higher compliment we can be paid than someone leaving their friends, family, and the security of their current home and planting new roots right here?

 

I personally would like to meet each one of them so I can tell them face to face how much I appreciate their vote of confidence in not only what we currently have, but for our vision of the future as well. Our local economy now has the opportunity to earn the business of hundreds of new customers. Our service organizations and churches now have the potential of seeing a huge increase in supporters and members. And as for us all making even more friends, that goes without saying! I hope you will join me in doing everything we can to make them feel welcome and to show each of them how grateful we are that they are here.

 

Along with the above benefits, we will also now be able to learn and grow from being an even more diverse community. We would be wise to open our arms wide and cast as large of a net as possible in order to learn from their experiences. I’d say the chances are pretty good that we are not facing too many challenges that other communities have not faced at some point in the past. It’s likely a safe bet that some of our new friends and neighbors have had similar experiences. To all of our new friends and neighbors we say “Welcome Home”! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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“State of the City”

At the Chamber’s January Monthly Luncheon, Mayor Ed Hagerty gave his annual “State of the City” address. Just prior to making his remarks he recognized Mary Lee Ramsey, a resident at Rutland Place who is celebrating her birthday… the 103rd one she has had! He even proclaimed January 15th, 2014 as Mrs. Mary Lee Ramsey Day in MJ. Quite an honor and an obvious reason to celebrate! We are a lucky community to have Mrs. Ramsey as our friend and neighbor!

 

Mayor Hagerty then went on to deliver his annual update and shared with those in attendance many of the other things either in the works, coming soon, or at least being discussed as future possibilities. There are of course the obvious projects, those that already have bricks and sticks coming out of the ground. Such projects include a huge new Goodwill Store, (complete with a drop off bay and an employment training center), Providence Wine & Spirits, medical offices, Tire Discounters, retail businesses, Lifestyles Community, residential & multi-family home developments, MJ Commons, the realignment of N Greenhill Road to connect with a stoplight at Benton-Douglas Drive, Robinson Crossing, the extension of the MJ Greenway Project down West Division Street, the newly complete CEVA Logistics (1,000 employees inside the city limits of MJ!), Gander Mountain and many, many more projects. Several things are worth noting, in addition to the fact that there are very few communities in the entire country that can claim such growth on the tail end of the worst recession in our lifetime.

 

The fact that TN was just recognized as the number one state in the nation in terms of economic development investment dollars is terrific in its own right. But for MJ to be the 4th most business friendly city, in the number one state of TN makes it even more incredible for us! It’s very important to keep in mind that this is not something that happens automatically or without the hard work, commitment, and support of everyone concerned. Everyone in the community has a vested interest in the future success of our community. We need to all make local politics a part time profession (Ben Franklin said this many years ago I believe?). We owe it to ourselves and to those who follow us to be engaged, informed, and part of the process in charting our future growth.

 

To continue on the road to future successes, we need to insure that the path to starting, expanding, or developing residential and commercial projects in our community is a smooth one. This path does not need to be a meandering, inconsistent, reckless, or filled with unreasonable and changing obstacles. Rather we need to encourage future development that is consistent with our values, visions, and wishes for those who follow us. At some point down the road, perhaps a long way down the road for some, there will be another resident who celebrates their 103rd birthday in MJ. Let’s be sure that the stories they have to share about MJ are as great as the ones we enjoy today! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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Like A Delicious Dessert…

I hope you had a safe, relaxing, and reflective Christmas and New Year Holiday. If yours was anything like mine, it likely included some tasty sweets and delicious desserts. In all of the hustle and bustle, surrounded by these holiday necessities I really did not give it much thought as I indulged a bit more than was really necessary. However, with the changing of the calendar and finding a bit of time to finally slow down and catch a breath here and there, a particular kitchen concoction caught my attention.

For those of you who know my wife Tonya, this will be of no surprise. For those who have yet to meet her, well that’s a treat in itself. She is a terrific cook and loves to bake things, nearly always without even following any particular recipe. I’m pretty sure there is not a measuring cup in the house if that tells you anything. As for me, anyone who knows me knows how much I love to eat. Regarding her cooking, I can say with near certainty that I have probably never eaten “exactly” the same thing twice. Needless to say, it’s a wonderful combination.

I guess it was about her final holiday baking that gave me pause to ponder how much our community is similar to a fresh-baked loaf of banana nut bread. It’s odd that this particular dessert often starts out with some less than delicious looking, nearly expired bananas. Along with those fore-mentioned bananas, several other things needed include fresh eggs, flour, sugar, butter and in this case some nuts. Other than the nuts, there is nothing in the recipe that would be particularly tasty alone. In fact, eating those bananas, flour, fresh eggs, and butter by itself sounds kind of distasteful to me. But in some magical way, with plenty of practice, and following a few simple steps, baked in a no-frills pan, and heated at the correct temperature for just the right amount of time the result is amazing; and I don’t even eat fresh bananas!

Think for just a second about the wide variety of folks who make up our community. Some might represent the eggs, seemingly hard and crusty on the outside when we all know they are really mushy and soft on the inside. Others may be like the sugar; very sweet in small amounts but not particularly beneficial in large doses. What about the ones which are like creamy butter who seem to make everything a bit tastier? We need to toss in a good dose of those bananas.  And then of course there are those nuts. As much as they sometimes drive us crazy, we have got to have the nuts or it just won’t turn out as good. Then it’s time to blend it all together. Just maybe not having the recipe micro-managed or pre-determined is our little secret.

I happen to believe that the recipe for the future of our community needs to be as inclusive, diversified, and creative as possible if we want it be place that our children and their children will be proud to call home. As more friends and neighbors are added and want to be included in the mix, we can always make the mixing bowl bigger. I’m betting that our future is going to something very special! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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A Lot to do in only 8,760 Hours

There are only 8,760 hours to work with in all of 2014. That’s only 168 hours per week and we will need at least some of those hours for sleeping. Toss in a job and family obligations and that number begins to shrink even more drastically. If your wishes, goals, resolutions, hopes, and dreams, are like most others even there are probably not enough hours left to get it all done. As I reflect back on the last year, it’s obvious that I left a lot undone and that means some of the hours in 2014 will have to be used simply to catch up on unfinished business left over from the previous year. Looking at my list, I’m thankful that I get to be a part of the Chamber.

I’ve never shied from acknowledging the true satisfaction and joy I receive from my professional life at the Chamber. I think that because my personal interests and professional responsibilities are so closely aligned that when I look at my wish-lists for 2014 it’s often hard to separate the two. I am blessed each day to be on the front line of so many wonderful things happening in our community, county, and region. The MJ Chamber truly is an “us” organization and together “we” are accomplishing wonderful things for the benefit of everyone. I am extremely grateful to all who are helping make our journey together so rewarding.

Whether your list is a long one or only has a few things on it, we are all going to get the exact same amount of time to use in the coming year. Many of us have read lots of books which have been written to help us in our goal-setting, time management, being a better spouse, employee, coworker, leader, or parent. In many cases these books are akin to having someone take the watch off of our wrist, look at it, tell us what time it is, and then give it back to us. We think to ourselves “I knew that”! Often it is like giving ourselves that little jump-start we needed to make a change that we know will help us do better.

If any of our wishes or goals for the New Year involves you looking for ways to better CONNECT with others in your community, I invite you to see what the Chamber has to offer. If your business needs an ADVOCATE, why not see if we can help you? We have some great ways to help you PROMOTE your business, organization, church, school, or other entity as well. And if there is anything we can do to SUPPORT your current efforts, I hope you will keep us in mind in the coming year and make the MJ Chamber a part of your plan for success. Happy New Year! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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“What If” Every Day Was Christmas?

Last week I wrote about what our personal pieces of “art” will look like in the New Year. As I was making my list of wishes and B.H.A.G.s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), I began thinking about my own personal “what if’s” as well as those facing our community in the coming years. It’s hard to argue that many of the decisions we make individually as well as a community really do have an impact on those around us. Obviously those impacts can be either negative or positive, but either way each of our actions does cause a reaction of some type on down the line.

I found myself asking over and over again, “what if?” What if those of us who had the means would make time in 2014 to help someone we do not know who is a bit less fortunate? What if we took the time to go door to door on our own street and introduced ourselves to a neighbor we have not yet met? What if we started filling a jar with our loose change for the next 11 months so that next year at this time we might have a little extra to toss into the Salvation Army’s Red Bucket instead of using the store entrance located as far away from the bell-ringer as possible (I saw this happen nearly every time I was out visiting our local retailers). Better yet, what if we give some of it to our youngest shoppers for them to place in the bucket to reinforce teaching them to share and help others? What if we use some of the spare change we collect to help out with the Big Brothers “Mother’s Toy Store” or maybe we could donate it to the “Shop with a Cop” program? What if we made this the year we helped support the local art community by attending a play at Encore Theater, maybe support “Music in the Park” this summer at Charlie Daniels Park, or attend a musical by our very own Cedar Creek Community Band?

If you have a passion for animals, maybe this is the year to volunteer at the Animal Shelter. Do we know or have even met our local council person or school board member? If not, what if this is the year we find time to introduce ourselves and share with them our vision for our future? Years ago I had a manager by the name of Terry Troyer who was fond of saying “if if’s and but’s were candy, we’d all have Christmas everyday”. Well, my friend Terry passed this year but I think of him often.

In all of the hustle and bustle of the season, “what if” it really was like Christmas every day? Some might consider this one of those BHAG. Perhaps it may be. On the other hand it really is quite simple if you think about it. Someone once told me that “from those who have much, much is expected”. I very much believe that to be the case. Merry Christmas to each of you! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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Michelangelo, Rodin, and Us!

I’ll bet you never put that group together have you? Well, there is something that each of us shares with two of the most well-known sculptors of all time. Michelangelo and Rodin started many of their famous works of art with nothing more than a hunk of clay or stone. As they began chipping away at this chunk of stone or molding their hunk of clay, beautiful works of art began to emerge. Well, guess what; we too get a bit of a fresh start in the very near future.

With the New Year only a few days away, what will our personal work of art known as 2014 look like when it is complete? Are we going to place our soon-to-be finished piece of work we call 2013 right next to it so we have something to look at while we carve away at our newest piece? Or will we carve away with entirely new energy, creativeness, excitement, and vision? Nothing says our new piece has to look anything like the one we are about to finish. Imagine walking thru a museum and all of the pieces of art looking exactly the same. That would be pretty boring I think.

What if our annual pieces of work were our life’s museum? Would visitors be surprised or even excited to look around the next corner of our museum to see what mysteries lay ahead? I’m not a daredevil nor do I consider myself much of an extremist that takes daring chances with my life on a daily basis. But, I don’t want every piece of art in my life’s museum to look exactly the same either. Maybe this is the year that my next piece leaves visitors to my museum with a wild look of surprise on their faces. Maybe it will give them a chuckle; there are already a few of those pieces in my museum! What if it just leaves them scratching their head wondering what I was thinking? Maybe I’ll bait them with a teaser for 2015’s piece?

If you’re like me, I can’t tell you what might be around the next corner. I suppose our life’s sculpture (our final masterpiece, so to speak), is really made up of all of our little yearly pieces. As we glance in the rear view mirror known as 2013, let’s be excited and re-energized about the unlimited possibilities of what we are seeing thru the windshield in front of us known as 2014. What will emerge from our hunk of clay or chunk of stone? You have to admit, it does give us reason to stop and imagine the possibilities.

If you find yourself sitting down in the next few days giving this some thought, you are not alone. Remember that one of Rodin’s most recognized pieces is actually call “The Thinker”. I hope your 2014 is all you want it to be! I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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Hashtags, Posts, Tweets, and Timelines...Oh My!

 

Is it just me or are we becoming a bit overloaded with information and urgent messages at an alarming rate these days? Don’t get me wrong, information is a very real commodity and we would be wise to recognize the value and benefit of such. The problem for me is that I often feel like George Custer must have felt as he was dodging arrows and bullets. There is just so much coming from so many different directions that it is hard to know where to focus our energies. And the speed at which these new technologies or new uses of current technologies are coming at us is something right out of the old Jetson’s cartoon; except maybe that robotic housekeeper, I haven’t yet see that one!

 

I have to admit, late last year and early this year I just decided to get with the program and figure it out as I went along. Needless to say, that has left a lot to be desired, but at least I am on the field and in the game. Somewhere along the way, I have amassed enough “friends” on Facebook that they number nearly a third of the entire population of my hometown. Back when I was growing up I had only one true “follower” and that was my best friend and precious pet dog Corky. I think he often just followed me because he knew we would probably be stopping by the donut shop along my paper route. Like me, he too loved donuts!

 

Since that time I would imagine that most of those who have taken a chance and followed me, have likely done so mostly out of curiosity. And as for those crazy “hashtags”, we were using those years ago for our high-tech games of Tic-Tac-Toe. Now of course it’s hashtag this or hashtag that on Twitter; it’s like a foreign language to those who are on the tech-sidelines. I even have a friend who has the nickname “hashtag” for goodness sakes. And this whole deal with being Linked-In can also be a bit overwhelming. I’m not sure that everyone in my digital rolodex is taking full advantage of these social media platforms, but it sure seems as though more and more are getting engaged like it or not.

 

Some of my “connections” have asked me how in the world I literally have thousands of friends. I try to remind them that in the end, even I know that the number of those who actually attend my funeral will still come down to the weather. For those with whom I am connected, if there is ever anything I can do for you; don’t hesitate to Message, Tweet, Email, or Post me. Maybe sometime we can check out our timelines and get linked up for coffee and even play a game of tic-tac-toe and then tweet about the old times. I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

 

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Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Wow, is that ever true! We have heard that for so long and often times we have probably even added in some extra “P’s” for good measure too. You have to admit, there is plenty of truth to that statement and all that is left open for discussion is just what “poor” means to each of us. Regarding growth in a community, it’s probably accurate to say that for every person who is excited and anxious for new development, there are at least some folks who are skeptical at best or downright against it at all. You know what; their concerns are theirs and need to be recognized.

Agreeing or disagreeing can come after there is a show of respect for everyone’s right to their opinion. On one end of the spectrum are those who would take any type of project and try to shove it down an unsuspecting community’s throat and God forbid there are communities out there who need growth so bad they are willing to take it and deal with the consequences later. Thank goodness we are blessed to have people, councils, commissions, boards, and local volunteers who are dedicated and work very hard to insure we do not end up like that. On the other end of the spectrum are those who would have a community “build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything” (BANANA). I’d suggest that neither of these is a desirable option. Somewhere in the middle is where we need to be and you too need to be a part of the discussion.

At this very moment, the city is in the middle of reviewing out Land Use Plan (LUP) and this is the perfect time to let those in the decision making position know how you feel. I’d invite you to take an online survey to make sure your voice is heard. For more information regarding the LUP Review and to take the survey, visit http://planmtjuliettn.wordpress.com. As citizens of Mt Juliet, we are lucky to have a very dedicated group of professionals and volunteer community servants working hard on our behalf to provide for the type of growth we can all be proud of. Granted, not everyone agrees on everything and there are some pretty strict rules to follow if you plan to build or develop anything in Mt Juliet. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Those who would like to develop or expand new growth need to know what the rules are ahead of time and to plan accordingly. While the LUP is not a zoning plan, the two do work very closely in charting our course for the future. All of these plans are readily available and easy to access. I’d encourage everyone to “suit up”, get in the game and be a part of process.

 

I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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New Friends & Neighbors Coming Soon!

I suppose it’s just a bit too early to start baking a casserole or brewing the sweet tea, but hopefully it won’t be long now. Last week at the MJ Regional Planning Commission a couple of very significant approvals were given for those wanting to develop residential home projects. Those businesses and residents on the north end of our community will see hopefully see the development of the previously started MJ Commons. This development is being designed to provide a variety of options and home sizes. What was approved is only a concept and there will likely be many changes here and there before final approval is granted, but at least the needle is moving in the right direction. A key component of this project is the new stop light installation being planned on Lebanon Road in front of this project. Along with the re-alignment of N Greenhill Road this will provide for a much safer intersection and will undoubtedly spur some very welcome retail projects to better serve those who live in the northern area of our community. More details on this project will be available in the coming months.

As for the new “Lifestyles” Community proposed for the Providence area, it appears that it will become a reality very soon. This project is hard to imagine since there is really nothing else like it in the area. They have a very specific demographic target which is going to bring even more positive attention to our community. This project is being designed specifically for young professionals and is going to be unlike anything we have ever seen. It is a common question around here from large businesses considering a possible move to MJ; “where will my employees live if we move our corporate offices here”? Lifestyles will be huge draw to these types of employers and employees. For those of us with children who will be finishing college and are used to living in a social environment, moving to a traditional apartment or townhome development is not very desirable. Lifestyles will provide for a highly social environment, neighbors who are of about the same age, and with amenities many of us could only dream of when we were that age. Just imagine, one of these days our sleepy little Mt Juliet might just be the new “it” place for our kids who otherwise might have had to move to points yonder. Even more customers for our businesses too!

There are many other projects in the pipeline which is very exciting. Just think, if we are lucky one of these days there will be families that only need to travel from one end of town to the other over the Thanksgiving Holiday instead of hitting the road for long and tiring road trips. Don’t start the oven up just yet, but you may want to dust off your casserole cookbook pretty soon. I hope you have a safe and Blessed Thanksgiving. For all you do to make our community so special, I’m thankful to you. I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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We Are VERY Lucky…

Like many of you, I had the opportunity to pay my respects to some true American Heroes over the Veteran’s Day Holiday and other community appreciation events these past few days. I too found it a great time to reflect on just how lucky we are to enjoy the freedoms afforded us by those who have gone before us and the sacrifices they made. Of course there are many, many shining examples of how blessed we are as a community, state, and nation.

I’ve noticed a couple of things in the last few days that have really helped to drive that point home. One of those “things” was something I witnessed first-hand last week while attending the Governor’s Press Conference at West Wilson Middle School. (I could go on and on about that event and the significance of the reason for that announcement, but I will save that for another article.) At this event, our current Governor (a Republican) Bill Haslam invited his predecessor, (Democrat) Governor Phil Bredesen to share the stage with him. Governor Haslam gave very worthy praise to Governor Bredesen for all he and his administration had done to lay the groundwork for what has been accomplished in the area of public education in recent years. I wonder if most folks really ever stop and think about just how unusual something like this is in many other countries.

First off, in a lot of other countries, an administration can only take over when they literally kill the current administration. Some outgoing leaders are put in prison (along with their friends and families!) or held in bondage for the rest of their life. Some of the luckier ones are exiled to a foreign country to live out the rest of their life. And here we are inviting them to join us on stage. In the very big picture, that symbol was to me perhaps more significant than the glowing improvements in our educational system. My compliments and sincerest admiration to both of these true gentlemen!

And to provide yet another example of how we often take the most basic of our rights for granted, what about the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (representing over 152,000 learning institutions in Pakistan) banning the book I am Malala, written by the 16 year old girl who was shot by the Taliban. They were afraid it might portray them in a bad light. Well, hello… no kidding! I doubt anything like that book-banning would be tolerated in the United States. In fact, given what I have seen and heard of during recent music awards shows, she would be an instant Rock Star in this country and would be blowing up iTunes and other downloads.

Granted, those are two very different examples of a ball and chain. And maybe, just maybe it was because I was a bit more aware of my surroundings these past few days than I usually am, but I even noticed football players on TV helping up the guy they had just leveled on the playing field. For these few and all of the countless other things we enjoy, I thank our Vets for making it possible! Call me nuts, but you know what? To me those little things say a whole lot about “us” and just how lucky we are to enjoy the freedoms we sometime take for granted. I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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Let’s Show Washington…

Every once in a while a unique opportunity presents itself for people of strong character to show their true colors and in doing so enhance the lives of those around them. In many instances, I would imagine that by the time we even recognize it as an opportunity it is already in our rear view mirror. Today we find ourselves looking thru the windshield with a great chance to get it right the first time and without regrets.

What would make it even more remarkable would be if we can find that sweet spot in the middle where everyone comes out a winner and in the process we can set a “mini-example” to those in much, much higher elected authority but who seemingly cannot agree on what day of the week it is, much less being able to solve the complex problems facing us as a nation. Nope, this opportunity is on a much smaller scale and has to do with making sure that if and when the citizens of our community dial 911 that we can be sure a big red truck with a ladder on it will show up. We also hope that there will be adequate personnel who are properly trained and that they have the necessary equipment to make the fire go away with the least amount of damage possible.

Of course this needs to be done in the most cost-effective manner possible in both the short term as well as the long term. At this point, I am not advocating one way or the other because frankly I don’t have enough factual information (I think I just missed the perfect opportunity to use the word “Intel” that they use in the movies all of the time and sounds so much cooler than factual information) to arrive at a justifiable conclusion. I listened intently at last week’s board of commissioners meeting as well-meaning folks expressed their opinions on both sides of the fire tax increase being proposed. Each person is perhaps correct in their opinion because it is theirs and no one can or should try to force a particular point of view upon anyone else.

I believe there are a few things we can do to enhance our chances of finding that sweet spot. What we can do is to share the facts, agree on the opportunities being presented, identify all possible solutions, consider each and every option available, and perhaps most importantly we must respect each other’s perspective. I firmly believe that if we try as hard as we can to find that needle in a haystack known as consensus, we will all be better for the time spent to get it right while the opportunity is still present.

Rushing this might put a band aid on it and it may even buy us a little bit of time. But, eventually we will be going back to the drawing board and when we do, all the time we will be asking ourselves why we did not take the time in the beginning to do it right the first time. And if what we are seeing in the national news on a daily basis is any indication, let’s take a lesson from them and not be guilty of kicking the can down the road for the next generation to fix. Not that they are watching, but let’s show them how it’s done! I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1765 Hits
1765 Hits

Eighty Percent Chance of Sun…

Is it just me or do you also feel at times as though some people just insist on pointing out the negative side of things when it would be just as easy to highlight the positive? I’ll give you one of the best examples of what I am talking about. Doesn’t it seem as though most of the time the time we hear the weather forecasters spend more time on the bad weather instead of the good? What if we started a movement to change the focus? When was the last time that you heard someone on the news give a weather forecast by starting out letting us know that there is an eighty percent chance of sun? Try walking into the office and letting those around the water cooler know that there is an eighty percent chance of sun today and then watch the look on their faces.

We can do this in other conversations as well. Right here in our own community we have nearly ninety-five percent of our friends and neighbors who are gainfully employed. And guess what I found after a few minutes of digging around online? According to Wikipedia there are 3,144 “counties” in the United States. Guess where Wilson County ranks in terms of growth since 2010? Hint…we made the top 100. Wilson County comes in at number 96! That means that we are ahead of 3,048 (or almost 97%) other counties. Just think, we can call ourselves “3-percenters”.

Sure, there will be some gloomy days ahead. Even five percent of our friends and neighbors out of work is too high if you ask them. And there are still 95 counties growing faster than we are; five of them are in Tennessee so needless to say Tennessee is very well represented and doing far better than most! I am pretty sure you get a sense of what I am getting at. Sometimes it really is just a matter of perspective. Luckily for me, I get to spend most of my time surrounded by people who truly see the glass as nearly full. That makes it a lot easier to keep things in proper perspective and to share a positive outlook on things around us.

Sometimes just for the fun of it when someone asks me how I am doing, I will tell them “I plan on living forever; so far so good” just to see the look on their face. In the end we are all really on a day-to-day basis and every day is truly a gift. However long it turns out to be I hope I don’t lose perspective, even though there’s about a 100% chance it won’t be forever. I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  2345 Hits
2345 Hits

Let’s Call It “Connected” Media Instead…?

Has it ever seemed a bit peculiar to you that sometimes it seems as though this whole “social” media thing can sometimes be just the opposite of what I tend to think of as being “social”? When I was growing up the schools, churches, and other organizations had Ice Cream Socials. Now, those were very social indeed. Lots of folks would attend, games were played by the young at heart, and there were all sorts of other activities. These activities were of course in addition to the ice cream. As you can imagine, at an ice cream social all of the interaction was on a very personal, usually face-to-face basis.

It’s been a really long time ago since I last attended an ice cream social, but as best I can recall no one there was texting anyone else, talking on a cell phone, or even checking their Smartphones. In fact, I am quite sure no one was doing this because it would be another 40 years before cell phones became a mainstream as we know them today. And here we are talking about this thing called social media where we can literally have 3,000 “friends” on Facebook and nobody to go to lunch with. Few if any of the interactions involve anything remotely close to personal or face-to-face and yet we refer to it as the ultimate in “social” media. Someone could probably be considered a social media expert without ever even meeting anyone in person. To me that seems to be just the opposite of “social” media.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of very beneficial reasons and applications for those wanting to be “connected” to about a gazillion other people. Heck, we use social media at the Chamber many times each day. We don’t really think of it as anything social; what we do know is that it is an awesome tool for keeping folks “connected”. Now if we could just start the ball rolling to change the name of this phenomenon from social Media to Connected Media, think how much better that would be...ha! I’ve often heard of something like this as perhaps “ringing the bell”. Once it’s rung, you simply cannot un-ring it. I don’t really have any false illusions that it will ever happen; but it does make me wonder how the word social was so quickly and universally accepted as the term to best fit our newest way of staying connected. But then again, I often wonder why they call them “apart”ments in the first place when they are clearly all stuck together.

If you would like to stay connected to the MJ Chamber, it’s easier than you think these days. Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1840 Hits
1840 Hits

We Need More Pie Please

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to have numerous discussions about all of the hustle and bustle in our community. There are lots of building projects currently underway, new businesses opening, and companies such as Gander Mountain working their way thru the planning process in the hopes that they too can open their doors in Mt Juliet one day soon. I’ve also had other folks tell me that the city has no business granting any more residential or multi-family building permits since we already have times of the day when traffic is bad. Someday we may look back at this point in our city’s history as somewhat of a turning point; a reality-check if you may. Together we are going to need to decide what we want to be when we grow up.

For a city that essentially has a property tax rate of zero (since 100% of what is collected is designated only for emergency services) to fund things like parks and recreation, sidewalks, paving, city services, and such, sales tax is king. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that those services will not be any cheaper in the future than they are today. I’m also going to take a wild guess and assume that most folks do not want to pay more in property taxes either.

So the question begs to be answered; how do you raise more sales tax dollars and keep property taxes as low as possible? There may be many more, but two options readily come to mind. Option one would be for those of us who live here already to go out and spend a lot more of our money. Option two is to do what we can to get more people to live here so that they too can contribute to the sales tax base; i.e. grow the tax base. I’d say most are already spending about all they can and unless their income sees a significant increase then I doubt their spending will increase dramatically anytime soon. That means our current pie is pretty well divided up I’d say.

So, that now leaves us with the other option which is making the pie larger. How do we make the pie larger so there is more money spent in our community and thereby allowing us to grow the tax base? We need more “spenders”. We need spenders that are not even here yet to move into our community and to contribute more money to our local economy. These spenders need to represent as broad and diverse of a populous as possible. What are we doing to attract these folks? Where will they live and work? What can we do to help remove the “barriers to entry” into our community? If we don’t do that, then what happens? As for me, I’d rather grow the pie!

I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber #mjchamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1858 Hits
1858 Hits

What’s In It For Us?

I recently attended an Annual Meeting with my peers from all across the state of Tennessee. Other than a meeting each year in March with all the State Legislators, it’s about the only time each year that those of us in the Chamber world get to personally network, share best practices, and tell a little about what is happening in our part of the state.

At this particular conference the keynote speaker was one of the most well respected chamber consultants – speaker guys in the business. His name was Pat McGaughey. After many, many years in the business and after getting to travel the entire county working with Chambers of Commerce he shared a thought that I happen to share wholeheartedly. He said that a Chamber is an “us” organization and that the most successful Chambers are those that are able to convey the message and be known as an “us” Chamber. There really is no room for the “what’s in it for me” mentality in a well-run Chamber since our very existence is determined by how we all work together. Businesses that work well with others are often the most successful. Some refer to this as “an all boats rising with the tide” philosophy. Those that financially invest in the Chamber know not to join on Wednesday morning and expect folks to start calling them on Wednesday afternoon. These businesses are investing in the future of the community and in the hopes that together we can accomplish great things that none of us could accomplish on our own.

If you think about it; that is exactly how it works. We cannot sell the community as a great place to live, if the schools are not are not top notch. We can have the best school system around; but if we have a high crime rate no one will want to move here. If retail and office space is very cheap but there are no customers or available employees what’s the use of opening a shop. You get the idea; there is tremendous inter-connectivity and reliance on others doing their best as well. And, (and this is a BIG “and”) the community can make a difference by supporting those local businesses that call our community home. Folks, we need your support! Right about now you may be asking yourself, “what if I do want to shop local but have no idea what all is out there and can I really find what I am looking for right here”? Well I am glad you asked. There are hundreds of great local businesses, right at your fingertips waiting to serve you! You can check them out 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. Won’t you please help make sure it really is all about us?

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1848 Hits
1848 Hits

Where’s the Beef?

If you have been around a while, I’m guessing maybe the late 70’s or early 80’s, you probably remember that very popular television commercial from a competitor of McDonald’s which asked that very simple question. Along with that one there was another competitor telling folks that square fish don’t swim. These were very much directed at the world’s largest fast food chain and the company that was putting bread on my table at that time in my life. As crazy as it may sound, to me they were very personal.

The message of bashing my employer really irritated me at the time. I wondered why we did not go out and pick on them the way they were picking on us. Luckily I had some wise bosses (Dave, Pat, Mel, Tom, Ray, Linda, and Terry to name a few) that taught me a lifelong message that to this day I try to use in everything I do. What they taught me was that all of our efforts were purposely and consistently being used to tell our customers about the good things we were doing, not the bad things that our competitors were doing.

If you remember the commercials I am referring to, then you probably also remember the steady stream of award winning commercials that McDonald’s used to touch our emotions in a positive way; some even had nothing to do with our menu items. I find this to be a tried and true way to do business and in the treatment of those around me. As a community I happen to feel like this lesson is also applicable. Many of us absolutely love our community and most hope we never have to leave. We have planted our stake here and to use a little poker term “we are all in”. I find it very refreshing when folks talk about why they love our community, rather than what they don’t like about some of those around us.

We can certainly learn from some of the neighboring communities (or even some very far away) about how to avoid making short term decisions that might have a negative impact in the long term and such. But to me there is a difference between that and just taking a broad swipe at entire communities and using words like them and they. If I had to guess, I would imagine that “those” communities are also full of honest, hardworking, and nice people too. It’s fair to say that they love their community as much as we love ours. Perhaps those that came before them made some unwise decisions that now make it look as though they are playing with a 7-2 off-suit and we feel like we are holding pocket aces. My thought is simply that we stay on point and proudly promote our community.

We have a wonderful message to share and if we do that I am positive that we will make those that follow us very proud. I will see you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1863 Hits
1863 Hits

The Loss of Our Friend…

This is a very sad day for our community. For the last 35 years Garr’s has been a tremendous corporate citizen and a friend to all. Garr’s holds a special place in my heart as being the business where I made my first purchase upon moving into this city over 25 years ago. On the day I moved in I went to Garr’s to buy one of those curvy stakes you put into the ground to attach the dog leash to. Somehow the ones we had did not make it onto the moving truck. Personally, Garr’s has been there for me since day one.

Since that time and over the course of many, many years Garr’s has come to represent all that is so special about a locally owned and operated small business. The impact that this business has had on nearly every non-profit organization, school, church, and community event is immeasurable. Roy and his staff would gladly put our promotional messages on the board out front, donate items to our charity auctions, and provide his equipment for those bigger projects. Thanks to Garr’s, our community is dotted with more Purple Martin Houses than one can count and hundreds of children and their families are now professional “Scarecrow” makers having attended their annual Fall event at the store. Each year at Christmas time, Garr’s proudly erected (and put on display lining their rooftop for all to enjoy), a giant nativity scene for thousands to see during the Christmas Holidays.

Over the years countless young boys and girls, Scouts, Church and Civic Organizations, and many others were able to take a field trip and enjoy seeing baby chicks, birds, and other animals right in the middle of the store. There was usually a family of ducks or geese that called the large pond in front of the store home. One could even make the case that Garr’s was one of the original “big boxes” as they seemed to have about everything we needed. Garr’s was one of those places you could visit even if you really did not need anything. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the feed store I remember while growing up in Bluffton, Indiana. It’s where I would go with my father and grandfather, the kind of place where the men could sit around, and maybe drink an orange pop (ice cold and in a bottle for about 5 cents!) from an old self-serve ice box. I even remember climbing up on a big bag of oats or something like that so I could be in the middle of the conversation.

Yes, this is a very sad day indeed. Gone? Perhaps, but in no way will they be forgotten. Just like my memories from many, many years ago, Mt Juliet is full of people who will also have fond memories of their feed store. I am certain that someday many years from now, somewhere, someone else will be writing a similar story remembering their old friends at Garr’s. It hasn’t even been a whole day and I already miss you.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1709 Hits
1709 Hits

Only 111 Days Left Until…

You guessed it; only 111 shopping days left until Christmas. Some have probably already started making their lists. I am fairly certain that there are those who already have a list of what they need to buy, as well as the lists of what the youngsters are hoping they find under the tree. I’d like to encourage everyone to please try and buy at least one thing on their list from a local business that they might not have otherwise planned to.

There are lots of perfectly understandable reasons to go online and make our purchases; the time it can save, perhaps the expense of the gas, and maybe even the upfront savings on the purchase price. But I would suggest that there are also as many good reasons to shop local if you can. Those online businesses and websites can often times save us a few bucks on the front end, but what does is cost us on down the road? Let me know if any of those online websites ever sponsor your children’s ball team or let you sell Girl Scout Cookies outside their front door. So far, I have never seen their sign on the outfield fence at the ball park or their logo on the dance team program at one of our local schools or let us use their parking lot for an organization’s benefit car wash. I’ve never seen them donate an item to our charity event silent auctions or sponsor an event in the park.

Without the opportunity to capture those precious sales tax dollars our city is forced to limit the services it can provide us. And those lost sales mean that the local businesses do not have the income necessary to hire our friends and neighbors who are looking for jobs. And as long as those who want to work in our community are going without jobs, the less they have to spend in our local economy. I can certainly understand the need to make the very best out of every dime. To do otherwise makes no sense at all.

So, I have a suggestion for this year’s shopping; ask. That’s right, take just a minute and actually ask the small business owner who has the same or very similar products if they can match the price or at least come close enough to earn your business. Shipping an issue? Maybe the local business owner will actually deliver it to you at very little or no cost? Frankly, it was painful for me to watch a local family-owned business shutter their doors this past weekend (more on that next week) after serving our community so well for the last 35 years. If you would like the contact information for many, many local businesses wanting to earn your business, check out the Chamber website and simply search the directory for what you are looking for. From “Art to Wireless” and lots of great stuff in between, your community has much to offer. Thanks in advance for at least giving them a chance!

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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  1839 Hits
1839 Hits