Mt. Juliet Chamber Blogs

Keep up with everything going on at the Mt. Juliet Chamber!

Vesta, Commerce, and Prosperity!

Like many of my friends, I too have been anxious for Spring to arrive. Along with games at the park, mowing the grass, and eating outside, it’s now time for another of my favorite past times; seeing new places in Tennessee. Many of you know that on nice weekend days, Tonya and I often get in the car and head out to visit places we have not yet seen. Last summer we began a crusade to see every State Park in Tennessee. Last Saturday we made it to 3 more, bringing our total to well over 30 so far! Our first stop was the Cumberland Trail and the origin of the Sequatchie River on the northern end of the magnificent Sequatchie Valley in Rhea County. Next up were stops in Cumberland and Bledsoe County. Our last park to visit that day was spectacular Rock Island a few miles north of McMinnville. We made it back to White County in time to watch a spectacular sunset from a scenic overlook east of Sparta. It was as if we could see a thousand miles of hills and valleys. It was a great day and our love for the beauty of Tennessee continues to grow.

Sunday was another spontaneous road trip that I would imagine not many others have taken, and we did not have to leave Wilson County! Until Sunday I had no idea where communities such as Vesta, Commerce, and Prosperity were. Along the way we visited a number of very small rural communities such as Vine, Major, Greenvale, Liberty Hill, and Cottage Home. Also on our travels, we went to Statesville, Cainsville, Norene, and Cherry Valley. All of these communities are in Wilson County and yet we had never even taken the time to go see them for ourselves! Not to mention, all of these communities are south of the Interstate. We have yet to make it to Bellwood, Tucker’s Crossroads, Oakland, or Taylorsville which are also in Wilson county and north of I-40.  

Living in the heart of Mt Juliet with a rapidly growing number of cars and commerce, often times it’s easy to forget that just a few miles down the road in our own County there are such vast open spaces; many filled with grazing cattle, miles and miles of farmland, century old stone walls, and narrow roads. And speaking of narrow roads, I mean really narrow. Want to see for yourself? Buzz out to Blue Well Road, Dillon Road or even Hardin Hollow Road. When you do, it becomes obvious why schools sometimes close for weather related reasons when all seems fine on MJ Road. These roads are so far out in the middle of God’s Country it’s a wonder that busses can even get to them on nice days!

With plenty of time to enjoy the peacefulness and tranquility of such places, it provided me a new-found appreciation for the challenges facing our local leaders. I am one who feels that everyone in Wilson County deserves to be provided for equally and has a right to expect a reasonably similar return on the taxes they pay. My hat is off to those who have helped find the balance or limited resources to provide for such a wide range of urban and rural needs. One thing is even more evident to me than before; Wilson County IS the place to be! Who knows where next weekend trip will take us, but if it ends with a picnic box of fresh fried chicken, potato wedges, and orange cake like we had from a little market in Historic Watertown to end our “Wilson County” day, it promises to be wonderful! I hope you will join me 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 be sure to visit us 24/7 at

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It's the Climb

I read an anonymous quote the other day that said “You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” I guess I’ve written a lot lately about taking life by the horns and living it to the fullest. Maybe it’s just a stage I’m going through or maybe in my mid-50’s, I’ve just finally figured some things out. 

When I was younger, it seemed as if life contained an endless supply of days, as if time and opportunities were unlimited. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to know that life is happening now and that now is all we are guaranteed. At some point, our health begins to decline a bit, we lose someone we love, or a tragedy rocks our world. Then we finally realize that now is a fairly limited commodity.

How do we live life to its fullest? I’ve made a list for myself and you can probably add a few of your own.

Be still: Quiet time helps to recharge our batteries and focus on the present moment.  

Don’t obsess over negative things in life. Instead, focus on things for which you are grateful. 

Get over a grudge. Staying mad harms you more than the one who triggered your anger.

Find fresh air. Make time to go outside during the day. Just 30 minutes in the sun or a lunchtime walk will lift your spirits.

Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep boosts your mood, improves your memory, and sharpens your focus.

Read a book. Take the time to sit and read. Learn something new or just go for pure escapism.

Unplug and go tech free. Turn off your cell phone, television, and computer for just a day. You might be surprised at how relaxed you feel without the noise and distraction.

Find a hobby. Spending time on an activity you enjoy makes you lose all sense of time and self. 

Schedule fun every day. Each morning, ask yourself what you can do today that will make it an amazing day. Make a list of simple pleasures and work a few into each day.

Wake up with yoga. Yoga stimulates muscles and adrenal glands, raising your energy levels, and also increases flexibility and relieves stress.

Stare at your great life and savor the positives. Place photos of friends and family in your office where you see them every day.

I’m not a fan of Miley Cyrus, but years ago I would hear one of her songs while flipping the radio dial and I hate to admit that I actually liked it just a little bit. It went something like this…

There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move, always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I'm gonna have to lose, ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waitin' on the other's the climb.

We can stay on the ground or we can climb. I don’t know about you, but I’m lacing up my hiking boots. 

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Singing, Tasting, and Trivia!

How about those three for even more of my favorite things to do? While they seem fairly random, each of us has the opportunity to enjoy all three while at the same time supporting great causes that benefit our local community. The Mt Juliet Noon Rotary Club is sponsoring the 2nd Annual Wilson county All-Sing. Choral groups from all Wilson County High Schools will gather at Wilson Central High School on Thursday, March 27th for an evening of great music, incredible singing performances, and wonderful camaraderie. All of the proceeds will be re-invested right here in our local schools to help support such Rotary Programs as; Project Dictionary, Wheels in Motion, and Wilson books from Birth. For more information or to get your tickets, please visit

Coming up on Friday, April 11th, the Mt Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club will be hosting the 3rd Annual “Taste of Mt Juliet”. This event will be held at Mt Juliet High School from 5:30-8:00. As with the All-Sing, 100% of the proceeds from this event will again be used to support local programs and services right here in our community. This is an awesome event and it will give all attendees a chance to sample food from many of our local restaurants who will be donating various items from their menus. For more information or to get your tickets in advance call 773-5200.

And finally, if Trivia is your entertainment of choice, you are in luck! On Saturday, April 12th from 6:00-8:00 at the Mt Juliet Community Center, Modern Woodmen of America is hosting a “Trivia” night and it is open to the entire community. Modern Woodmen will match all of the proceeds from this event up to $5,000. There are several ways to reserve a team for your own hand-picked table of trivia-experts. Dinner will be provided to everyone compliments of The Corner Pub. On top of that, 100% of the money raised will go towards enhancing the new Jones Park on N Mt Juliet Road. Call 553-2278 for more information or to get your team registered!

I’m sure there are many, many more great events already scheduled or being planned and these are only a few that come to mind which are happening in the very near future. And while they are each very different, they share a common purpose. All are to benefit the entire community. It is heartwarming and humbling to know that so many wonderful people are working so hard for the benefit of us all. Whether it’s to provide books for our youth, meals for our seniors or parks for us all, in the end we all benefit for their generosity. To whatever degree you can, I hope you will support their efforts to help keep our community the perfect place to live, work, shop, play, pray, and raise our families!

I hope you will join me 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 be sure to visit us 24/7 at

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Look Out Legislature… Here Comes Mt Juliet!

This is an exciting time of year if your interest is in or eyes are on the State Legislature and all of the issues facing them during what some call “the silly season”. Each year from late January when the session begins until sometime in Late April or May when the session ends, our state leaders try and tackle as many important matters as possible. It is looking like this year’s session may be over as early as April 18th or so.

Wilson County is represented in the House by Susan Lynn and Mark Pody, while our State Senator is Mae Beavers. As a county, we are lucky that all three are extremely accessible, out and about in our communities, and willing to listen to their constituents. The Chamber of Commerce actively engages our representatives on a wide range of issues. Our efforts over the years have resulted in a very positive relationship that has in many ways given us a direct connection to those who are in important decision making positions.

As a part of this process, we are once again preparing for the MJ Chamber’s “Day on the Hill”. This event is going to be held on Wednesday, March 26th. This day-long event starts at the MJ train station where we will board the Music City Star to downtown Nashville on our way to the Capitol. Thanks to the efforts of our legislators and their staffs, we have a day filled with tours, meetings, photos and even time with the Governor and State Commissioners. Along the way we hope to further nurture our relationship with our legislators as well as others who will join us throughout our visit.

Our message is simple; We Care! Our local businesses are depending upon the Chamber to help be their eyes and ears in matters of legislation (current or proposed) that have an impact on their business and our quality of life. This is a tremendously educational day and is not only important to our community, but our legislators are very appreciative as well. We provide them with valuable feedback about how the impact of legislation affects us in the real world. Often times, people will ask us “what does the Chamber even do?” It’s a great question and can be answered in a single sentence. “We work to create an environment in our community that makes it the kind of place that people will want to risk their capital in the hopes of making a profit”… pure and simple. When that happens and happens well, a community can put themselves in such a position that new businesses will want to call that place home.

One only has to look around our community to see that it works. To achieve our mission, we need to simply do four things; Connect businesses with customers and the other way around, Advocate on their behalf, Promote both the businesses and our community, and provide Support for our local businesses. Next week’s visit to the legislature is a key part of our Advocacy efforts. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, why we do it, or how we do it, give us a call or check out our website for more information. I hope you will join me 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 be sure to visit us 24/7 at

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Go Outside and Play!

When I was a kid growing up in Alabama, we spent pretty much every summer day playing in the yard. Every morning after breakfast, my mom would kick us out of the house, telling us to go outside and get some fresh air, and we would do just that until we were called in for lunch. After lunch, we would go right back outside and play until we heard the dinner bell ringing. And then after dinner, guess what? We would go back outside and play until it was dark! We were always tired, hungry, and ready for a good night’s sleep so we could get up the next day and do it all over again.

Thinking back on that time in my life makes me wonder what happened to play in my life now that I’m an adult. Where did this idea come from that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to be grown-up and serious?

Play, for adults and children alike, is necessary in order to de-stress. Play is a great investment in our wellbeing and helps us be our best when it comes to our jobs, parenting, and relationships. We may have the mindset that we are “too old to play”, but play keeps us younger and healthier by generating optimism, boosting the immune system, and promoting a sense of belonging.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”

I think we should give ourselves permission to play every day! Maybe we no longer wish to slide down a slide, play hide-and-go-seek, or throw a Frisbee. But we can color with our grandkids, build a Lego castle, put a puzzle together…the possibilities are endless. Now, why are you sitting here reading this? Go on outside and play! 


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Buttercups, Walls, & Volleyball Nets!

These are just a few of the things I love to see rising from the ground in the springtime. Luckily for us we don’t have to look far. The timing is probably a coincidence, but either way it is exciting to be driving thru town and to see such things popping up all around us. On two different corners of the intersection at Old Lebanon Dirt Road and N. Mt. Juliet Road, we have the new two-story Robinson Crossing and the Jones Family Park which are both making progress towards completion each and every day. At Robinson Crossing the walls are already up with the elevator rising right in the center. Across the street the new sand volleyball court at the Jones Family Park has been installed and the area surrounding the court has now been seeded and is covered in straw. On up the street at Town Center, there is development underway and across the tracks the Sellars Funeral Home Project is going vertical and beginning to take shape.

It won’t be long now before we see new development on the site of the former Dollar General that was leveled by the tornado that hit the Lebanon Road area just over a year ago. In the Providence area our new Gander Mountain is going full-speed ahead and next to that will be the new home for Mt Juliet’s Chuck-E-Cheese. We are anxiously waiting to announce an exciting new project between Wal-Mart and Academy Sports. Add to all of this a number of new retail projects, a huge new Goodwill Store, Providence Wine & Spirits, Tri-Star Summit Medical Center’s new multi-story office building and even more restaurants and it’s easy to see that we are still an attractive community for commercial investment!

And just to add even more icing to the cake, as I was walking into the office over the weekend I noticed our flower beds are full of Buttercups and other flowers just waiting to be sure that Mother Nature is okay with them busting thru the mulch and showering each of us with all of the beautiful colors of springtime. It won’t be long now before the pear trees share their awesome blooms and our lawns emerge from their long winter’s nap to provide us with the perfect place to hide our Easter Eggs in the next few weeks.

Next week there is even a meeting at City Hall for those involved with the Farmer’s Market. It’s been a long, hard, and unusually cold winter; but we are almost there! So the next time someone asks you “what’s up?” you can tell them; oh how about Buttercups, Walls, and Volleyball Nets. You’ll probably get an odd look, but you and I will sure know what you’re talking about! I hope you will join me 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 be sure to visit us 24/7 at

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Everyone’s Welcome!

“The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce is in the beginning stages of forming a new Council on Diversity.  As we all are aware, our community is growing and changing and becoming more diverse in every way.  We recognize that every voice is important and want to ensure that the Chamber is able to hear the voices of all people and include them in the wonderful things that our community has to offer.  We need your help!” - (Jacob Armstrong, Pastor at Providence United Methodist and Mt Juliet Chamber Board Member).

As a member of our Chamber Leadership Team, Jacob is helping us lead the way in making sure our community continues to be the type of place that persons from all backgrounds, walks of life, and religions can come together for the benefit of all. It is our desire and intention to identify potential barriers, celebrate our uniqueness, and to insure that our community culture is such that we truly have an “everyone’s welcome” type feel. As Jacob said, we are in the beginning stages of this effort. We are a bit uncertain just what this journey together will look like, nor can we realistically predict the type or frequency of those sure-to-find-us road blocks that are likely to pop up from time to time. What we do know is that message is clear; This is a wonderful place to call home and everyone is welcome to join us.

We have much to celebrate as a community and we invite others to help us get that message out to our current and future friends and neighbors. If you are interested in helping, we’d love your ideas, concerns, suggestions, assistance, and support. Perhaps you have a story of your own or know someone who does? Why did you choose to call this home and what has your experience been so far? Did you get a sense of feeling welcomed when you got here? What about some of your friends and neighbors who have moved here since you did; did they get to experience a good dose of Southern Hospitality too? Do you have something you can share to help us be a little better tomorrow than we are today?

Please consider this an invitation to become engaged and to help us make a positive difference for those who come after us. Hopefully you will be seeing and hearing a bit more about our efforts in the coming weeks and months. For more information or to find out how you can support these efforts, please feel free to email or call me sometime. I hope you will join me 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 be sure to visit us 24/7 at

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Famous Failures

I once heard that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, that Oprah Winfrey was told early on that she wasn't fit for TV, and that The Beatles were rejected by a studio, saying they had no future in show business. Pretty hard to believe since all of these people later found tremendous success in their chosen fields. Can you imagine how history might have been redirected had each of them given up the minute someone carelessly shot down their dreams?

When we encounter rejection, it's easy to become paralyzed by fear, whether that's fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of starting something new. Andre Gide, French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, said "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a really long time." Is there a dream you buried long ago that still resides in the back of your mind? Stop saying it's too late! Most of us will probably never end up famous failures like Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, but it’s empowering to choose our dream and stick with it even if others don’t share our vision or even if it looks slightly different than we thought it would.

This might sound sort of crazy, but maybe it’s true that failure can sometimes bring us one step closer to what we want if we simply persevere. Just because a dream is delayed doesn't necessarily mean it has been denied altogether. Maybe some growth has to happen inside us before we're really ready to pursue a particular dream. Or perhaps we need more wisdom to modify our dream to the point where it can come true. The key is to keep our head up and our eyes open and to keep moving forward. It’s impossible to do that if we're always looking back!

How many times have we ended up not changing our lives for the better simply by not choosing? My dad used to have a saying that drove me crazy because I never really understood what he meant when he said "Do this or do that, one or two." Sitting here 40+ years later, I think I finally get it. We can set our sails or we can stay on the shore. But it’s time to choose. 

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Those Six Little “P’s”

They may be a mouthful, and some folks probably or perhaps can even add a few more, but for the purposes of this article the six primary “P’s” will do; Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. I’d say this one is pretty universally agreed upon and I’m sure that anyone who has a degree from the school of hard knocks can attest to its accuracy.

Last week I wrote about the growing traffic in our community and last night at the City Commission meeting we got to witness firsthand our elected officials taking even more steps in the planning process to insure proper performance in the future. I’m referring to the action they took to fund the improvement of current and planning of the future traffic signaling in and around the Providence area. Also included in the planning process are steps to re-stripe the roadway mitigate the lane switching and maximize the traffic flow. I think it’s fair to say that at the meeting all agreed there is room for improvement in how the signals talk to each other and that we need to find ways to improve the movement of cars in that area of town. I personally found it refreshing to not only hear of such planning, but also the financial support behind such projects. An argument can be made that this could have all been taken care of in the beginning with a proper plan. Maybe that’s so, but maybe it’s not so. That’s a different debate for another time and place.

I know how hard it is to get a stoplight put up even when it seems so obvious to the general public; remember us waiting, pleading, and even petitioning TDOT many years ago to get the one at MJ Road and Charlie Daniels Parkway? Who really thinks that TDOT would have let us put in 6 or 8 stoplights all at one time before anything at all was developed in the Providence area simply because we wanted to plan ahead? Fast forward to today. The picture is clearer now. We have a track record and most agree that we are not slowing down anytime soon. There is still time to tweak what we have while simultaneously preparing for even more growth and traffic coming down the road…literally.

Kudos to our Public Works Director and City Engineer Marlin Keel and the entire team at City Hall for taking the step necessary to keep us ahead of the curve. Thanks as well to our City Leaders for funding this project. Add this action taken to that of planning ahead for growth at our new Police Station and City Fire Department, and it’s obvious that planning is taking place. Such planning and preparation is not cheap, it’s often not politically popular, and it is sometimes overwhelming I’m sure. Who knows what obstacles will pop up down the road? Whatever they may be, it’s good to know that we have a plan in place and we are working our plan. As for you; I hope you will plan to see me 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

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Traffic & the Silver Lining

It’s not just our imagination; there really are more cars on our streets and roads than ever before. To those who have relocated here from highly populated areas in other parts of the country, even our worst traffic days may seem like not much at all. On the other hand, to those who remember the not too distant past right here in Mt Juliet, some of our peak travel times may seem like Times Square. I have to say that both are probably right. At the end of the day it’s just a matter of perspective.

Like you, I’m not much for sitting in traffic and even a little can sometimes seem like a lot. In the past I’ve often been somewhere between inconvenienced and downright irritated. My personal perspective changed a bit last week and maybe I can at least cause you to raise an eyebrow as well. Maybe you too will see a similar silver lining in all of the growing congestion. Please know that I wholeheartedly agree we need to work as hard as we can each and every day to make good decisions and have the best plans possible to minimize the current and future growth. We all see it coming and those who can impact change need to do so every step of the way.

I mentioned a change in perspective last week and it came during a meeting of my peers from across the entire state. The speaker shared with us something he had heard that seems to make a lot of sense. Sitting still in traffic one day it dawned on him that the huge increase in all of the cars and trucks sharing the roads in his town was really a good thing. Sure it was becoming an inconvenience at times, but as he looked around it occurred to him that his town was growing by leaps and bounds. That sounds pretty very familiar to me and to those of us who call Mt Juliet and Wilson County home. All of these cars, trucks, trains, bicycles, and pedestrians represent a popular, vibrant, growing, diversified, and healthy community. It also represents something near and dear to my heart and that is “commerce”.

All of our new friends and neighbors are coming here for the same opportunities that many of us have enjoyed for many years; even generations in some cases! As we continue to grow, even more businesses, retailers, and site selectors will likely make the decision to located here. That means more jobs, more opportunities, and a healthier community for all of us. One of the things that makes our community so special is our willingness to share what we have and a genuinely friendly sense of community. We should be proud of that and thankful that so many others want to come and be a part of such a special place. When they get here they will probably have a couple of cars too. If we are lucky, we may even see them out and about.

So the next time we are in a bit of traffic, stopped at the train tracks, or letting a cyclist cross the road, let’s wave, smile, and spread good cheer. I’m sure it will make them feel better and I am certain it will bring a smile to us too. Think of it as another silver lining for the privilege of living in such a welcoming community! 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

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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

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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

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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

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Things That Have Never Been...

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke said "And now let us welcome in the New Year, full of things that have never been."

Sounds pretty awesome, huh? Sometimes I feel as if every day is the same old day. I shower and get ready for work, I brush my teeth, pack my lunch, and make the 30 minute trek to my office. My car travels as if on auto pilot. Then I arrive at my office, walk in the door, put my lunch away, grab a yogurt and a bottle of water, sit down at my desk, turn on my computer, and begin my day exactly as I did the day before.

Now, don't get me wrong...I love my job and even though no two days are exactly alike, day in and day out is pretty much routine and I'm just beginning to feel as if I'm ready for an adventure. I realize I'm not going to travel to Iceland like Walter Mitty did in the new movie, but a new year IS a fresh start and a new chapter to be written.

Most of us are in the habit of making a New Year’s Resolution which is broken about 6 weeks into the new year. So how about listing New Year’s Aspirations instead? A resolution makes me thing of rules, something I have to do. An aspiration is something I hope for and wish for, something I've kept tucked away for when the time is right. Let’s trust that now is the time.

My daughter Lindsay recently wrote a blog about not letting your life pass you by. That inspired me to be an active participant instead of living my same old boring routine. I decided not to save my aspirations for "someday." I cut my hair really short, signed up for weekly yoga/meditation classes, joined a second book club, and researched singing lessons, creative writing courses, and Master Gardener classes, some of which I hope to be in by the end of the year.

Will this stick? I don't know. But, I aspire to stick with it. This is the month to dream, to look forward to the year ahead and the journey within. Will you join me?

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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

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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

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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

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We are Family

"We Are Family" was a hit dance song recorded by Sister Sledge in the 1970's. Even though the singers consisted of four sisters and therefore really were family, the song has most often been used by others as an expression of solidarity. For instance, “We are Family” was the theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, was played during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and was featured in the film Private Benjamin. A cover version of the song was used as the theme song for the French equivalent of the American game show Family Feud. This song was even recorded in Japanese and was covered by numerous artists, including the Spice Girls and Alvin and the Chipmunks!


When I was a kid growing up in a family of seven children, we all had to pitch in and do chores around the house. No allowance ever changed hands. We did chores simply to keep the family running smoothly. No questions asked; it's just the way it was. Every single night after dinner, one of us would clear the dishes, one would wash them, one would rinse, one would dry, and another would put them away. Yet another would pack away leftovers and then the last one would take out the trash. None of us, not even the youngest, was ever excused from nightly dinner duty.


It takes a lot of hands of all different sizes and shapes to keep a family running smoothly, and it's very much the same way with any group we’re a part of, whether that’s a team of co-workers, a circle of friends, or a club we belong to. In order for any group to work well together and have a sense of solidarity, a variety of gifts and talents are needed to fill in the gaps and fit all the pieces together. It takes a lot of cooperation from all, with everyone pulling their fair share of the weight.


Author Jane Howard said “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” I have to agree with Jane. Even though the song says "We are family, I've got all my sisters with me", we have to remember that it's not just flesh and blood that makes us family. All of us are brothers and sisters, and we really should work together and look out for one another.  

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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

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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

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