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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.

Your Backyard Is Beautiful!

Got your attention didn’t I? Well, the backyard I am talking about sure has mine. We’ve probably all referred to parts of our neighborhood, maybe our community and perhaps even our state as our “backyard”. The one I am sharing with you today is our State Park system.

Tonya and I recently started on a quest to see as many of the Tennessee State Parks as possible. It kind of started on a whim one day when we decided to take a little day trip to visit someplace new that we had not yet seen together. On one of our first stops we picked up a free park guide that shows the location of over 50 parks from one end of the state to the other. This locator map shows where they all are, directions on how to get there, and what types of activities are available at each. We have now visited over a dozen in the Middle TN area alone! I have to say, this is yet another reason to absolutely love the place we call home.

Mt Juliet is located only a few miles from the geographical center of Tennessee, making it just about as convenient as possible to visit them all. That cannot be said if you happen to live in Memphis or Mountain City up in the far NE corner of TN. In fact, if you lived in Mountain City, TN it would be closer for you to drive to Canada than to the other end of your own state (521 miles vs. 544 miles per MapQuest)! I hope everyone gets a chance to see some of the beauty and magnificence our state has to offer. We even went to one State Park (it’s only been a State Park for a couple of years now) that was not yet on our map which is located about 20 or so miles north of Cookeville. We were actually on our way to Burgess Falls and Tonya saw the sign for Cummings Falls State Park. We thought “what the heck, let’s check it out” and it is spectacular! Some might even call my ability to get from the passing lane driving 70 MPH to the exit ramp in under 5 seconds a bit spectacular; I hope everyone else on the road that day thought so too…JK.

Another trip took us on the Natchez Trace Parkway all the way down to Davy Crockett Park near Alabama where we enjoyed the afternoon attending Davy Crockett Days. From waterfalls and foot bridges, cliff views and scenic overlooks, to beautiful drives and wonderful picnics, we have truly come to appreciate our own back yard. So far our visits have been easy day trips nearby. We are looking forward to broadening our travels and hope to get to Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville in the NW corner of TN across the Mississippi River from Missouri to Warriors Path State Park near Kingsport in Upper East TN. The next time someone asks you why you love Mt Juliet, maybe you too can add this to your already long list of reasons why we love our own backyard! 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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Stop By Sometime…

Have you ever wished you had the time and opportunity to meet with someone from the City or County to discuss a concern, offer a suggestion or idea, put a name with a face, or perhaps just to say hello? Well, you are in luck! The Mt Juliet Chamber of Commerce would like to welcome you to stop by sometime to do just that.

Each month, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and Mt Juliet City Manager Ken Martin have set aside time to make themselves available to meet with you to discuss whatever you have on your mind. No need to make an appointment; if it is obvious that your individual matter is going to require more time than is available, a more formal meeting can be arranged.

City Manager Martin will be at the Chamber office on the first Wednesday of each month from 8:00-9:30am and County Mayor Hutto is scheduled for the last Wednesday of each month from 8:30-10:00am. Their commitment to public service is obvious and this is just one more way to help them stay in touch with their constituencies. Those who have already taken advantage of this service have found it to be very beneficial.

Sometimes it is easy to take certain things for granted and it can often lead us to ask ourselves “isn’t it like this everywhere”? Well, I don’t really think so. There is no denying that as a city and as a county, we do have our challenges; costs are going up and our income is limited. New programs and services are wanted and they come at a cost. It’s probably a pretty tough time to be an elected official trying hard to balance all of that out. Not too many elected officials I have ever known have had all of the answers themselves and they all need input from those they serve. As a community we are fortunate to have leaders that are accessible, open-minded, and eager to serve.

As good citizens I believe we also have a responsibility to be an engaged electorate. We owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to be somewhat aware of what is happening around us, what the plans are for dealing with the issues I mentioned earlier, and plans for sharing our talents when we can. Taking advantage of the opportunity to communicate with those in a decision making position would seem to me to be one of the first steps. On these open meet-and-greet days, there is plenty of free parking and always a pot of fresh coffee. Add to that great fellowship and wonderful people and you have a recipe for just the right setting to nurture important relationships. I hope you will take me up on my invitation to stop by sometime and as always; 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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All’s “FAIR” In Wilson County

I’m sure there is another phrase about all being “fair” in something else, but in August each year it really is FAIR in Wilson County! For those reading this article who have been to the Wilson County Fair, then you already know what I am talking about. But for those friends and neighbors, who have not yet had the opportunity to experience the Fair, make this the year to do so.

There is perhaps no other single event of the year that draws as much attention or as many people to Wilson County as the Fair. Consistently drawing in excess of 500,000 visitors during the nine-day run believe me it is a huge event. This year the theme is “Taste the Fun” and the Fair runs from Friday, August 16th thru Saturday, August 24th. There is so much going on during those nine days that I cannot possibly do it justice in my 500 words. The Fair advertising insert in the newspaper is 104 pages! But, what I can tell you is that the WC Fair is a tremendous place for families to make memories. For those of us a bit older it can be a wonderful trip down Memory Lane. And for those who get chosen to be a part of Michael Blaine’s Hypnotist Show, perhaps no memory at all. The parking is free and multi-day passes are available online, at the Chamber of Commerce, or many businesses throughout the community.

A few things that I happen to think make this such a great fair include the cleanliness of the venue, the friendliness of the volunteers and vendors, and the thousands of items on display. On top of this there is the very popular Fiddler’s Grove area which gives us a glimpse into what life was like for the early settlers who called Wilson County home. Of course there is a Midway with rides for the young and young-at-heart, a petting area, Demolition Derby, farm animals, and more fair food that you can imagine; unless you can imagine things such as deep-fried sticks of butter and fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

There are discounted tickets for children and seniors, and early-bird specials on the two Saturdays. Traffic, traffic, traffic; of course there will be some but most take it in stride and know that with over half a million people attending this event that just comes with it. But if you want to avoid it all together you may consider riding the Music City Star (train) which will be available on both of the Saturday’s as well. There are multiple stages featuring live music, entertainment, beauty pageants, and much more throughout the event. And if you aren’t seeing stars by the time it’s over, there are fireworks nightly at 10:00.

For more information you can check out their website at www.wilsoncountyfair.net or call 443-2626. See you at the Fair! 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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Hey, Where’d My Summer Go?

I’m probably not the only one wondering that right about now. No, it’s not just you; time really is flying by. Most of us probably have a few “biggies” that hold a spot on our calendars each year, be them a special family event, annual vacation or road trip, anniversaries, special holidays, or something happening at work. We often use those milestones as little benchmarks throughout the year to give us some perspective of how quickly time can pass.

One of those things that impact the entire community (even if we do not have school-age children) is the return to class for our educators and young folks. It seems like it has only been a couple of months since the big yellow busses stopped dotting our streets and neighborhoods in the early morning and each afternoon. WAIT… it has only been a couple of months! If this is one of those things you put on your calendar, you are not alone. Starting tomorrow morning my traffic patterns will change and a bit more thought will go into when I go here and there.

You may not have thought about it, but many aspects of our local economy will see changes as well. As family schedules are altered, so are business patterns. We often find ourselves needing to be in multiple places at one time. Lots of families have children in multiple schools and this can mean picking up and dropping off a more than one location all in the same evening. Obviously that does two things; it can give us less time to do what we have been doing in the last couple of months, and it can definitely mean more cars on the streets. And on top of that, a whole new crop of first time drivers are also added into the mix.

Granted, if you look at the calendar there are still a few more weeks before we get to the next “biggie” with that being the Labor Day Holiday. That is typically the date that most of us have in our minds as the real end to summer and the beginning of the fall season. How long our school system will continue to stay on a modified calendar with a shortened summer vacation and longer breaks in the spring and fall remains to be seen and will undoubtedly be debated in the future. But for now it is safe to say, we are all in for some changes and will likely be trying to cram a whole lot into a pretty short period of time. Along with that means more hectic and crazier schedules, less leisure time, and probably some changes to our normal local travel routines.

Please don’t forget those local businesses that have served you well over the summer, appreciated your businesses, employed our young ones, and supported our summer fundraisers and back-to-school events. Thank you for continuing to shop local and for supporting those who support us. With the tax-free shopping weekend upon us, this is a great time to use the last few days of summer to visit a store you have not been to yet. 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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Volunteerism…It’s A Splash!

Have you ever had a “moment” when something hits you like a cool splash of water on a hot muggy day? It happened to me today as I was thinking about this week’s column. You may or may not know about what is happening this Saturday, either way I hope you can join us in a special community celebration.

Saturday at 10:30 will be the official ribbon cutting for yet another wonderful example of community spirit and volunteerism; Ava’s Splash Pad! This tremendous contribution to the community is located in Charlie Daniel’s Park and is open to the public. Talk about volunteer efforts and seeing a dream come true, this is it! This new water park is designed especially for our young children and is a wonderful addition to our community. Ava’s Splash Pad is being dedicated in the honor of Avalyn Shaye Bright who passed away three years ago due to complications following a tonsillectomy. Since her passing, her family, friends, and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make this possible.

Having raised tens of thousands of dollars in donations, in-kind contributions, grants, and other services, this dream is about to become a reality. This community effort, led by true volunteers made me stop and reflect on the volunteer spirit that is so alive and well in our community. From one end of town to the other there are signs, bronze markers, buildings, and more that all recognize those who came before us and have left this community a better place than they found it. Without this volunteer spirit and commitment to our community, we would not have many of the blessings we enjoy today.

What’s next and how can you get involved? What is your passion or what do you feel is needed or wanted in your community? Perhaps there are enhancements to our greenways and parks, additional pavilions or family gathering areas, or upgrades to our Senior Activity Center and Help Center that you can initiate, plan, organize, and execute for the benefit of those who come after us. Imagine if just a couple of dozen local organizations, HOA’s, Churches, Youth Groups, Gardening Clubs, or others decided that the benches along North Mt. Juliet Road would look even better with colorful flowers planted nearby. Remember the signs we used to see that told us a certain part of the road was “adopted” by a certain group? What about “adopted” benches?

Rather than wait on someone else to do it for us, why not take it upon ourselves to turn our dreams into reality? If your “Volunteer” spirit is just itching to do something, I encourage you to take the next step and make it happen. As they will be saying on Saturday, come on in…the water is fine! 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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When You’ve Seen One Chamber…

There is a saying in the “Chamber Biz” that “when you’ve seen one Chamber, you’ve seen one Chamber.” That is so true and I am sure that many people reading this article would agree. Chambers of Commerce are usually asked to do many things and those things often change over the years as new leadership comes and goes.

Most Chambers eventually settle into something reflective of the needs, challenges, and opportunities of their community. Like most other businesses, organizations, churches, and associations, Chambers of Commerce are often reactive to the needs of their constituencies, members, and customers. And like some larger businesses with Research & Development (R&D) Departments, your Chamber also practices some R&D of its own; except we call it “Rip-off & Duplicate.” And while all Chambers seem to be somewhat different, there is in the end only one reason we exist, and that is to create an environment in our community which makes it the kind of place that people will want to risk their capital in the hopes of making a profit.

Look around and think about it; wouldn’t it be great to live, work, shop, pray, and play in a community in which all of the businesses were profitable? Just imagine the day when our ball parks have their outfields lined with sponsor signs because so many businesses could financially support the program. What if a new, larger and more modern Senior Center was located right in the center of town? What if our school kids never had to go door to door raising money for even the basic needs of our extra-curricular activities? What if we had a fully funded Arts Center? You get the idea; each community develops their own priorities and seeks out ways to meet the challenges in accomplishing and meeting those priorities.

In Mt Juliet, all dollars collected from the property tax are dedicated entirely for emergency services. That means the pressure and significance of collecting sales tax dollars from local businesses is even more critical. Your Chamber leadership understands that removing barriers to increasing sales and customer counts is one of the most important things we can do for our customers and all of our local businesses. And while you may have experiences with other Chambers of Commerce, chances are it was not exactly like this one. Do we get it right each and every time? That is clearly not the case no matter how hard we try. Do we understand that you need and expect the Chamber to work hard to create a pro-business environment in order for our customers to be as successful as possible? Absolutely! As we initiate and implant programs and services to help us meet these expectations, we both need and want your feedback.

A lot is at stake for our businesses, our community, and the Chamber of Commerce. If you have not taken the time lately to share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or concerns about the business climate in your community, maybe now is the time to take a few minutes and let someone know. If there is something we can or should be doing to help, that we are not currently doing, maybe it is time we take a look around at someone who has it figured out and use our R&D Department to help us out. Given that no two Chambers are really alike, it really is true that when you have seen one Chamber of Commerce, you really have seen only one Chamber of Commerce. 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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Clicking On All 8 Cylinders…

That’s a phrase we have probably all heard and maybe even used from time to time. And whether there are 4, 6, or 8 doesn’t really matter; the point is that things are humming along pretty well at that particular time. I suppose it could even be that while something is humming along on all eight cylinders, there might still be a few little mechanical adjustments to make; maybe the tires need a little air, or other minor details to take care of before it is truly perfect. I have to say that if our community was a vehicle, we would indeed be humming along on all eight cylinders.

In various meetings and discussions I have been a part of recently, I sense that many others agree with me about this analogy. Having only lived in Mt Juliet for a little over 25 years, I am by no means a community historian nor would I want to imply that I am qualified for much more than my own personal observations and opinions. But assuming that you read this article for my opinions and reflections I am happy to share them with you. And, in my opinion we are doing awfully darn well right now. Are there some things we still need to do better? Of course there will always be some things we want to see improved. But as I look around, listen to folks, and am out and about in the community; there are a lot of really great folks working hard on those things each and every day. The vision is there and what I see each and every day while I am out in the community is a lot of enthusiasm, energy, and excitement about our future. I sometimes liken it to the ole’ dog that finally catches the delivery truck; you can just picture the look on that little rascals face! Well, in my opinion we have finally caught the delivery truck and boy oh boy are we in for a ride now.

There are many, many challenges ahead and we will probably even hit a snag or two along the way. But oh how lucky we are to live here; I would say we are blessed beyond most people’s wildest dreams and I think we should be very grateful for such an awesome place to call home. Let’s continue to keep an eye on the dashboard to make sure we take good care of this wonderful ride. Let’s always continue to make sure everyone in our community has a great seat, and by all means let’s make sure to keep plenty of gas in the tank. In our case, that means a lot of prosperous local businesses generating those valuable sales tax dollars with our business!

Have a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable July 4th Holiday and be sure to take a few minutes along the way and remember how we got here! 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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And We’re Off…

While those words (or something similar) are what we often hear at the start of other horse races, it also describes the first half of the year here at the Chamber as well. If the Chamber Year was to be compared to a large oval racetrack then you would say we are somewhere on the backstretch heading toward the turn three with only two turns (quarters) to go. And if I were the race announcer and giving the updates at each length of the track I would be very excited about our track position! I would be raising my voice and letting folks know that we are ahead of the pack and looking strong. I might even be so excited that I would say we have opened up a gap already as we head into turn three. Albeit that 2013 still has a long way to go with plenty of bumps along the way, and we will almost certainly have unexpected hurdles along the way; but so far so good! A lot of preparation, training, hard work, and experience goes into winning these races, and it is great to know that your Chamber is up to the challenge. We have fantastic leadership on the Board of Directors, each committee has in place a team that can make this their best year ever; and you are being served by great group of dedicated volunteers and staff which continues to be committed to our community’s success.

Granted this is not a real horse race and it won’t be over in two minutes, but there is still a lesson to learn. Everyone has a stake in the race; every member has invested financially in this organization and it is in their best interest to see it win. And while our competition may not be other horses, we do have competition and potential obstacles at each and every turn. Some of those obstacles are clearly visible and even somewhat predictable. Others will sneak up on us from the outside or maybe even from the inside. Perhaps the obstacles are completely out of our control and are totally unpredictable. The success of local businesses is a very important part of the well-being of any community and ours is no different. Their continued success is in our very best interest. Anything we can do to help them individually will go a long ways towards the success of us as a whole.

As the small businesses in our community run the race in the months ahead, there are likely things that the Chamber of Commerce has to offer which you may not yet be taking advantage of? Perhaps it has been a while since you looked into the many resources available at the Chamber of Commerce. We would like to invite you to check us out again and we hope you will use what we have to offer to help you get a leg up on your obstacles.

I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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Change…The One Thing That Remains Consistent

I am sure that I am not alone in wondering if it seems like the more I look around, the more change I see happening. Change is not the easiest thing in the world to get used to, no matter what your age or gender.

A number of years ago, Tonya and I decided to paint the front door of our house, and we chose a nice shade of “red” of all colors. When I was telling my then 12 year old daughter we were about to paint the front door and asked her what she thought about it, she said that was fine as long as it was not red! I would imagine that since none of the neighbors had a red front door, she was simply hoping we would not be the first. Too late, we had already bought the paint.

Many of you are also facing changes in your businesses & families that may not be something you are particularly looking forward to; increased competition, an increasingly tighter labor market, potentially higher interest rates, shrinking profit margins, increased governmental regulations, and the list goes on and on. Other changes though may be presenting new opportunities; new places to shop and dine, new customers, new suppliers, new markets, and maybe even more volunteers for our non-profit agencies. As residents of the Mt. Juliet area, we are witnessing changes each and every day. Some are good; new capital investments like office buildings, school additions, road improvements, a more diversified pool of potential customers along with a rapidly rising number of new businesses and many other things. Other changes may not be as exciting; increased traffic, potential loss of our small town culture, an increased need for emergency and public services, or even the risk of rising crime. Whatever your view may be about these changes, one thing is certain; Change is going to happen.

How effective we are at recognizing and preparing for these changes will go a long ways in determining the degree of success for our businesses, our schools, our Chamber of Commerce, our churches and non-profits, as well as our own personal wellbeing. As long as we are green and growing, and as long as we recognize and embrace change, we can all enjoy this exciting time in our community’s evolution. Why not take a step back and look at the many new businesses in our community. The magnitude of this change is significantly affecting us as customers, as employees, and other key stakeholders. When it comes to doing business or deciding where to spend our precious family dollars, we may simply need to make a few minor adjustments here or there. For others, maybe the changes will be more dramatic. Either way, adjusting to change can be a good thing; even if it means painting your front door red.

I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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A Mayonnaise Jar, Golf Balls, and Two Cups of Coffee…

A long time ago, I read a story that I have referred to often over the years. I’ve also changed the words a bit to keep it relevant to me personally. Every once in a while something triggers me to read it again.

Last week, our community layed to rest a man that has meant very much to his family, friends, and community. He left us way too early and will be greatly missed. Fond memories of my friend and local businessman (and golfer) Jerry Houston inspired me to share this with you this week. I’m sure others are bearing crosses that we know nothing about and for those who are feeling as though the load is more than you can handle, perhaps this story will help lighten the load a bit. When things in your life seem almost too much to handle; when 24 hours in a day are not enough; remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee; author unknown.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes." The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. "Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. So...Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. "Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand." One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend”.

Remember, the coffee is always on at the Chamber! I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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The Community Is On A Roll…

Each week I have the opportunity to use a few words to share my thoughts with our community. I hope you enjoy reading this column as much as I enjoy writing it.

As I was thinking about the very important role that each of us play in our Community, I began to liken it to that of a bicycle or other tire with spokes. You may be asking yourself what in the world they have in common, but when you stop to think about it there are many similarities. Obviously the bigger you are the bigger tire you need to get you around. The bigger the tire, the more support you need and the more crucial each spoke becomes. And the more tires used to pull the same load, the easier the load is to carry. Granted, in the Old West a wagon might have only needed a dozen spokes. But, thinking about how large we are getting, how many people now depend upon us, the speed at which we are moving, I would suggest to you that we need really strong and reliable tires.

Our (Chamber) tire is made up of nearly 600 strong and reliable spokes (Member Businesses) and we are all working towards a common and united cause; to make our community a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family. Other tires needed to help us achieve our mission might include such things as; the school system, our youth sports, our Senior Citizen Center, our local governments, our many churches and other places of worship, our neighborhood associations, and the list goes on and on. As like most other tires, we need to keep it filled with air; in our case that is an array of valuable programs and services which help our customers to keep moving forward. As like any other tire, when the air gets low the load seems heavier and in some cases can literally grind to a stop. Looking forward, there are a lot of great folks evaluating our current assets and opportunities in order to be as prepared as possible for the future growth which is sure to follow.

At the Chamber, our leaders, volunteers, members, and staff are also preparing for the future with even more programs and services being put into place for the benefit of the entire community. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, questions or concerns, you are encouraged to share your ideas. Call, email, or even better yet, stop by to let us know what you think we can do to make sure the tire stays full.

The Chamber of Commerce is working hard to make sure that all of the tires in the community are working together and pulling the load in the same direction. We have to help insure that there are enough people pulling the wagon in the desired direction in order to make it as smooth of a ride as possible. Each of you is making a huge difference in your community by supporting the Chamber of Commerce and our member businesses. Your past, present, and continued support are crucial. Together we are going places that none of us could go alone. And as for the Chamber Tire; well, we are really on a roll…I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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Who Knows You?

There was a time when folks who were looking for a career change or employment opportunities were fond of saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. To some degree or another that was often the case I would imagine. I’d suggest that even that is becoming obsolete and not nearly as relevant as it once was.

To many, it seems that the new adage is now more along the lines of “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you?” To that end, the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce is initiating a new program to help connect those seeking employment with those who have employment opportunities to offer. This program is open to anyone who wants to increase their circle or network of people (valuable contacts) who “know them”. This program is called Chamber CareerWORKS and is our latest effort to help connect people and increase the chances that someone will know you.

For those seeking employment, you are welcome to join us on the first and third Tuesday of each month. The program is compliments of the Chamber and a service we are providing to our friends and neighbors to increase the chances of finding employment in our community. These meetings will last about an hour or so and will be held in the meeting room at Courtney’s. The breakfast is “Dutch Treat” to help keep the cost to a minimum. For planning purposes and to assist our facilitators, we are asking for an advance RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Keep in mind that if your schedule will allow, you are welcome to attend each and every meeting.

The more people you meet and get to know, the more people that will know you! Simultaneously, we are now posting employment opportunities on our Chamber Connect page on the Mt. Juliet Chamber Website. These postings can be found under the Latest News tab on the drop-down menu bar. Keep in mind that this is a brand new program and is going to take a reasonable amount of time to become as useful and beneficial as we hope. If you do not find what you are looking for the first time you visit, please check back again soon. If you are a business owner in the area I’d like to extend a personal invitation to you to post your employment openings. There is absolutely no cost and all we ask is that once the position is filled that you let us know so we can remove the posting. Hopefully this will become a beneficial community employment resource. In order to make this program as useful and beneficial as possible, we welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions. I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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Service Opportunities Abound…

There are many, many different things that go into determining the livability and quality of life in any community. One thing that comes to my mind is the strength and vibrancy of our local service organizations and civic clubs. These can range from non-profits providing for the needs of friends and neighbors, to those whose passion is protecting our pets and natural resources.

United Way of Wilson County provides funds and services to dozens and dozens of local agencies and organizations alone. I have long felt that we are a very blessed community due in large part to the hundreds and hundreds of individuals who give unselfishly to support these organizations. All work hard to use those resources for the benefit of others.

On top of that we have a large presence of our younger residents volunteering and serving others (and lots of times some serving up some great pancakes at their fundraisers too!) with their involvement in Boy & Girl Scouts. Just as we like to see new shopping, dining, and retail businesses open their doors and welcome us with perhaps previously unavailable products and services; it is equally as exciting to see new service opportunities in our community.

Most of us have grown up knowing of the Lions Club and the great work they do not only in Mt Juliet and Wilson County, but in many foreign lands around the globe as well. I would imagine many of us have generously donated our used and no-longer-needed eye glasses so that the Lions Club could then refurbish them for those less fortunate.

We are fortunate in MJ to have two Rotary Clubs and two more in Lebanon. Their mantra leaves no doubt what their mission is; “Service Above Self”. Rotarians and the great work they do have left an indelible mark on our community and that work continues today. Another service club in Mt Juliet is the Exchange Club. The Exchange Club is sponsoring (with the help of the Veteran’s Club and Del Webb) what promises to be an awesome event in MJ on Flag Day in June. I can’t wait to see what hundreds of American Flags look like when they are all flying proudly in row after row after row right in the heart of town!

And if that is not enough, there is more great news! As I write this there is a group of great folks working hard to start a new Kiwanis Club in Mt Juliet. Is now the time for you to consider joining a service club? Those interested in checking out the Kiwanis Club are invited to join them for lunch on Thursdays at Courtney’s. It is the perfect time to get in on the ground floor of a terrific club. These are but just a few of long list of wonderful organizations working hard every day to make our community so special.

 

For a list of local non-profit and information on how you can support their efforts, visit the Chamber website or email me. I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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What’s Your “BHAG”?

A number of years ago I was attending a U.S. Chamber of Commerce program called Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Charleston in South Carolina. There were Chamber people attending from all across the United States. Sometime during that week I heard a speaker at the time ask that very question; “What IS your BHAG (pronounced bee-hag)?”. Needless to say there were a lot of bewildered looks from those of us hearing this for the first time.

He went on to explain that was simply an acronym for Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal. I believe that question is even more important today than it was back then. I’d also suggest that BHAGs are just as relevant in our personal lives, our professional lives, and they can also be especially important as we look at our community. If you have never heard of BHAGS, you just might be hearing more and more about them in the future because I feel very strongly that without them, we will look back someday and ask ourselves how we let these remarkable times slip away without realizing our true potential as a community. I do not know what your BHAGs are, but I do know that everyone ought to have a say in the future of our community.

Perhaps your BHAG for our community is that we are known as the “city of parks and greenways”, maybe it is a county known for “the highest teacher salaries in TN”, what about 40 city tennis courts instead of 4, what about a state of the art library that is the envy of the entire Southeastern U.S., maybe a new senior citizen center that is like no other around, or even an Olympic sized swimming pool with water slides and picnic areas, or how about something as basic as becoming the first 100% Handicap Accessible Community in Tennessee? The list goes on and on; each obviously has a price tag; maybe even two price tags if you consider the price tag of not having it.

What if instead of listening to all of the reasons we cannot have this or cannot have that, we started asking ourselves how we CAN have it! I would even suspect that if the truth were known, there are others who also share the same BHAGs. Maybe one of these days when you are enjoying your next morning cup of coffee or a sweet tea on one of these upcoming hot afternoons, ask yourself; “What IS My BHAG?” I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. 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.

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Wines and Prayers…

As we head into the Month of May and take a look at everything going on around us, a few things begin to emerge as VERY large items on the Chamber radar screen. Speaking of Wines…by now I am sure that you have heard a lot about the 10th Annual “A Toast to Tennessee” Wine Festival coming up on Saturday, May 11th at Nashville Shores from 12:00-6:00.

Our presenting sponsor this year is once again TDS Telecom. We also wish to thank our other major sponsors; Mt Juliet News ~ Lebanon Democrat, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, CedarStone Bank, and A+ Storage for their generous support in helping to host this event; without the help and support of our sponsors, this event would not be possible.

This year we will have a record 25 wineries at the festival and ticket are going fast! Along with the wineries providing free samples of over 200 different award winning wines, there will be artisans, specialty food vendors, music, free seminars, food, free parking, and one of the most relaxing days you can imagine; all of this while leisurely strolling around beautiful Nashville Shores with new and old friends. This is one of only a few such events held annually in Tennessee where wine not normally available in wine stores will be available for purchase by the bottle or case.

Advance tickets are still available online at www.atoasttotennessee.com or by stopping by the Chamber of Commerce Monday – Friday 8:00-4:30. And of course, group sales are also available. Not sure what to get that special Mother’s Day gift? Problem solved; tickets to the Wine Festival will be a sure hit. If you really want to make it the perfect weekend, Holiday Inn Express has a selection of festival packages including rooms and suites. See you at the Festival!

And speaking of “Prayers”…are you on the guest list for the Annual Prayer Breakfast? If you have not yet made your reservations and you would like to join us; please order your tickets (id="mce_marker"5 each) online using the Chamber Website or call the office. This Annual Event will be held on Thursday, May 1st (this is recognized as the National Day of Prayer) at Cook’s United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00. Please bring a friend, family member, co-worker, or other special guest and enjoy a very uplifting and inspirational message from Former Wilson County Sheriff and noted Author, Sheriff Terry Ashe, who will be delivering our keynote message.

So whether your desire is enjoy a fine wine or you are simply need for prayer, it would seem that May is going to be just the month for you! I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week, Mark Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Twenty Five Years and Counting...

Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago this month? Unless it was a time marked by something special or momentous in your life, it may have just been…well…1988. For me, it was a turning point in my life which would lay the groundwork for the many blessings, family, and friendships which I am so grateful for today. Yes, that was 25 years ago this month and my-oh-my how things have changed since then!

After managing the McDonald’s for two years, and working as a Cracker Barrel Manager for another 2 years, I decided to pursue business ownership. After an exhaustive search, I ended up purchasing a lawn care franchise. It was when I bought that business and before I even had my first customer that I was referred to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce, which was then located in a far back corner of what was the inside mall area at the Valley Center (H.G. Hill Food Store) shopping center. Betty Stephens was serving as the Executive Director. If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting her, add it to your “Bucket List”, because she is indeed a rare bird and your life will be richer for it. Her enthusiasm and passion for the Chamber was so contagious that I was hooked from the very first day. The Chamber is a great place to get involved and truly make a difference in your community.

In 1992 I was asked to serve as a board member. I was blessed to be joining a great group of community leaders such as Phil Smartt, Don Henderson, Drs. Mike and Peter Davis, Glenda Binkley, Phyllis Robinson, David Hinton, Sheila Wren, and many others. As the Board Chair in 1995, Phil Smartt asked me to follow in his shoes (an enormous job that I was humbled to even attempt) as the Board Chair in 1996. I just could not seem to get enough of this business and all of the great things that go with it. In the fall of 1998, when the opening to be the Director became available I decided to sell my business and work for the Chamber on a full time basis. We knew at the time that with all of the ground work that had been done by so many true leaders and entrepreneurs; our future was very bright. And while to some it would seem that the fruits we are enjoying today just somehow popped up in the last few years, those who know the whole story realize that as the old saying “We sit under the oak tree today because of the acorn that was planted years ago” is oh so true.

So now is the time to ask ourselves that if we are a resident of our community, a business person and even a community leader, what will the oak tree of the future look like? I guess that will be determined by the seeds we plant today. If we are sitting on the sidelines hoping that Mt Juliet will be the type of community we are proud to call home, and are hoping that others will just do it for us, then perhaps we need to take a hard look at the role each of us can play. Let’s all commit to getting involved in the process (not sure how, call and ask me!) and help to make sure that when we are sitting under the oak tree in 2033 we can look back and know we did all we could to insure we are as proud as we can be. I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week, Mark Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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May I Borrow Your Rolodex Please?

While that may sound like an unusual question, it is one which should and does get asked quite often at the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has many benefits and often times they may be seen as intangible, which can make them seem as being too difficult and cumbersome to be of direct benefit. As an organization, we want to remind folks of ways they can take advantage of the Chamber. And this leads me back to the question; “May I borrow your rolodex please?”

One of the benefits which I encourage you to take advantage of is to use the contacts which are readily available to you. Most people who spend a few minutes at the office are very surprised at the amount of information readily available. I want to expand on how using your “Chamber Contacts” may be of benefit to you should you need help with issues relating to your local government.

The Chamber meets regularly and works closely with local government leaders on your behalf to discuss matters of concern. It is the belief of the Chamber that having regular and meaningful dialogue with our city leaders is beneficial to all concerned. Mt Juliet is governed by a City Manager type government. Mt Juliet has 5 elected officials; 4 Commissioners elected by district to represent approximately ¼ of the city and a Mayor elected at large to serve the entire community. This elected body then hires a City Manager or “CEO” to run the day to day operations. As Mt Juliet’s City Manager, Ken Martin and his team of department heads are a very valuable resource for helping local businesses and residents with matters of concern. City Leaders (both elected officials and non-elected officials) and Chamber representatives work together to make sure our local businesses are represented when dealing with issues which affect them. Sometimes these issues are relatively minor and can be resolved with a single phone call or personal visit to the right department. Other times the issues are much more involved and require a longer period of time and much more work to get resolved.

Whatever the situation may be in your particular case, I encourage you to use the “Chamber Rolodex” to help you whenever needed. One of those “intangible” benefits of having access to local decision-makers can be turned into a very tangible benefit when you are able to use this resource to help you in your time of need. Depending upon the matter at hand, it could be a City, County, or State issue. Whatever the case may be, we are happy to help you; all we ask is that you give us a chance to work for you. So of course the answer to the first question is…Yes, you certainly may borrow the Chamber Rolodex!

Anyone needing assistance is encouraged to visit us online for a complete contact list of important names, numbers, and direct email links. We are available 27/ at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week, Mark Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Not Sure Where to Start?

For those familiar with many of the resources available at the Chamber, this might a bit of a reminder. But for those who are unfamiliar with the wide range of services provided by the Mt. Juliet Chamber, I’d like to invite you to keep us in mind when the opportunity arises to help you. At the Chamber, we really do not make or produce particular “widgets” or have a cash register to sell products. At the Chamber, what we strive to do is to connect those with available goods and services with those who are in need of such; and of course we work to make sure that these transactions continue to grow. It is these transactions in any community that are the fuel that keeps the local economy running.

A very valuable service provided by the Chamber (available to everyone in the community) that I’d like for you to be aware of is how we can help you connect with your elected officials. The Chamber provides a weekly Legislative Update which includes a complete list of important bills working their way thru the legislative process at our State Capitol. These updates also provide you with direct contact information for those House & Senate Committee Members who will be deciding the fate of these bills. For those that are interested, these updates can save you a lot of time and are a great way to stay informed. The Chamber of Commerce is also a great place to start if you are just not sure where to look but know you need to get in touch with someone who can help. Depending upon where you live your issue may need attention from someone at the city or county level; or perhaps both. Our elected officials representing us at the State level are also very accessible and actively support our efforts to assist in providing opportunities for personal visits at open meetings hosted periodically by the Chamber. For those needing to contact your elected officials in Washington, that information is also available at your fingertips if you visit the Chamber’s website.

Sometimes trying to get in touch with the right person, or even knowing who the right person is for a particular matter, may seem like a very daunting task. Let us help steer you in the right direction. We would like to be your “connection” and we invite you to give us a try if the need arises. Anyone needing assistance is encouraged to visit us online for a complete contact list of important names, numbers, and direct email links. We are available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Where Did All of the "Pepper" Go?

That may seem like a bit of an odd question, but given that in recent years I have considered myself to have that "distinguished salt & pepper" hair color. Now we all know that is really just a way of saying the brown is about gone. Considering that I am sometimes lovingly referred to as "Old Gray" or "Mr. S & P", I have to wonder, just where did all of my "Pepper" go anyway?

Now before you say, "well Mark, it probably just runs in the family", let me tell you that my father still has a nearly full head of brown hair. So why are the gray genes picking on me? Some may stay it must be stress. Well, it does get a bit hectic and sometimes (just like everyone else), I am getting pulled in several different directions at the same time. Deadlines need to be met and not enough hours in the day; BUT stress...no way!

Many of us also know of friends and neighbors dealing with family illnesses and others have loved ones serving in the military and are living 24/7 in harm’s way so we can enjoy things like ball games, and Easter-Egg Hunts…now that’s real stress! Please join me and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers Sometimes I think it is easy for us to take advantage of how well we really have it, and to lose sight of what is really important. When I stop and think about how truly blessed I am, I need to try and get better at being thankful for all of the many blessings I am privileged to enjoy each and every day.

Coming up in just a couple of weeks we will be celebrating the Easter Season. I hope everyone will find time to pause at least for a few minutes and return thanks for the many blessing we enjoy. So, as I was running a comb through my mostly gray hair getting ready for a day of meeting new folks and spreading the good word about our community, I thought about what message I might share with you. I paused for a minute and while I was looking in the mirror, I noticed that most of the pepper is gone and one of these days in the very near future I am likely be called simply "Mr. Salt." I am going to try and keep a healthy perspective on things and not let it stress me out. After all, in the great big scheme of things, I am one lucky guy! Hey, come to think of it, having a bunch of salt up there may be better than having nothing up there at all in my case.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Cookies & Our Community

Like many other folks, this is the time of year that we look forward to getting our chops on a box or two (or three) of those delicious Girl Scout Cookies. Many of our local businesses provide high pedestrian traffic areas for Girl Scouts to earn troop funds by selling their wares. Recently it dawned on me how the Girl Scouts and our community share a common message.

We have all heard the Girl Scout song that says “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” Perhaps at no time in the history of our community has this message been more relevant to everyone calling Mt. Juliet home. Just like a Girl Scout being encouraged to make new friends and keep the old, our community must practice this same message. No group or organization in Mt. Juliet is more excited about living and working in such a growing, thriving, and prosperous community than a committed Chamber of Commerce. Many of these businesses quickly become our “new” friends, often becoming vested members of our community and supporting the local economy.

However, I feel very strongly that we will all benefit if we can find that balance between making new friends and keeping the old. In this case, we must not forget those who have been our friends for a long time; you might even call them “gold.” And for a community whose fiscal lifeblood is the collection of sales tax, shopping local is even more critical. With nearly each and every purchase we make, we all have many choices. I often ask people, when was the last time you stopped by to check out one of those businesses that you drive by every day on your way to somewhere else?

Now with a brand new five-lane highway connecting the north and south ends of our community together, it’s pretty easy to get from one end to the other in no time at all. I’d suggest that you might be missing out on a “golden” opportunity to support a local merchant; perhaps even one that has their name on the back of your child’s baseball jersey. You might even get lucky and be able to pick up some Girl Scout Cookies while you’re there. And just like the Girl Scout Promise says, we need to embrace our new businesses but remember the old ones too. After all, no one can ever really ever have too many friends, or for that matter too many cookies! For a huge Business Directory of how to find all of this Silver & Gold; visit www.mtjulietchamber.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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