Wilson County Featured in National Magazine

11/6/2012

Wilson County, Tennessee - "Home of the Three Rs"

Read the Full Article at Expansion Solutions Magazine

Expansion Solutions had an opportunity to visit with representatives of Wilson County, a charming and growing community nestled in the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee.

Located just 35 minutes from down- town Nashville, Wilson County is home to some of the nation’s most recognizable brands from Cracker Barrel’s home-style cookin’ to Lochinvar’s water heaters, boilers and pool heaters. Online retail giant Amazon.com has also settled itself in the county.

Several of Wilson County’s largest companies were founded on the very soil they continue to call home, demonstrating a true testament to the community’s stability and opportunity for continued economic success. In 1969, Cracker Barrel opened its doors as a gas station and country store -- a far cry from the 600- plus restaurants it now has in 42 states.

Then in 1983, LoJac Inc. was launched to provide high quality services and materials to the construction industry through- out the Southeast.  Just four years later, Wilson Bank & Trust was created and has since become one of Tennessee’s largest community banks.

“These investments may be home- grown, but they exemplify a world-class business attitude,” says G.C. Hixson, Executive Director of the Joint Economic & Community Development Board of Wilson County.

“You have dynamic companies that will step out and invest in these projects, and they are successful because they bring dynamic community folks with them,” he said.

The county is comprised of Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown -- each city distinctively different, but bound together by common attributes. Collectively, the municipalities create a well-rounded county deeply rooted in tradition and filled with urban development, commercial growth and cultural love of the arts for its 117,000 residents and countless visitors.

Coupled with easy access to Tennessee Titans NFL football, Nashville Predators hockey, NASCAR, a world-class symphony orchestra and the famous Grand Ole Opry, it becomes obvious why Wilson County was recently ranked as the nation’s eighth “Most Livable Small Community.” An annual visit to the Wilson County Fair, ranked the No. 1 county fair in the country by USA Today, is becoming a family tradition for many.

Its highway network is unmatched in the state because of its direct access to three major interstates   -- I-40, I-24 and I-65 -- and State Route 840 that connects each of the roadways. It has been built with the future in mind -- clear roadways, sewer and water capacity and telecommunication amenities.

Additionally, the county is within 650 miles of 75 percent of the United States’ major markets and is part of a transportation service area designated as one of the “Top 100 Most Logistic-Friendly Cities” in the country.

“This infrastructure sets the county and its municipalities apart from other Nashville suburbs because it lacks the congestion hindering other communities,” Hixson explained.

“We have been able to stay ahead of the demands of our growth,” he continued. “Our infrastructure growth has maintained one step ahead of what other sub- urban counties are experiencing. Looking into the future, we are ahead of the curve with regards to road projects, and we lead in logistics as compared to some other communities in Middle Tennessee.”

Wilson County has become the new gateway to Nashville (known as "Music City") due in part to a regional rail service established in 2006. Commuters can hop on The Music City Star and ride into the city, completely avoiding rush hour interstate traffic. Rail service for industrial customers is also available through the Nashville and Eastern Railroad Corporation.

The county hosts Lebanon Municipal Airport that provides corporate and general aviation service. Even at its far eastern border, Nashville international Airport (BNA) is only a 30 minute drive. If you find yourself on the western county line you could find yourself in the terminal in only 15 minutes. BNA offers both passenger and cargo flights to cities across the globe and is a second-tier hub for FedEx. The proximity to Nashville also services companies who need to move materials on waterways. The Cumberland River, flowing through Wilson County and Metro Nashville, is a high-trafficked commercial river that provides access from the interior of the state to the Mississippi River.

In summary, these “Three Rs” add up to a transportation system that takes companies as far as they want to go.

Developers have created a Corridor of Commerce along State Route 840 leading into Wilson County with more than a dozen advanced manufacturing, logistics and fulfillment warehouses lining the highway. Some have located their companies in the area for the first time, while others have expanded their corporate footprint in the county following a rewarding and profitable experience.

In any case, companies enjoy the advantages of no state income tax, a cost of doing business that is less than the state average and competitive incentive programs. Wilson County is an exception- ally pro-business environment with these tax benefits: sales tax exemptions, jobs tax credits for both franchise and excise taxes, low local property taxes and excise tax credits for businesses.

“Talk about buying a proven product—this combination of the right location, a skilled workforce and a low and competitive tax program makes Wilson County quite irresistible,” says Hixson.

Lochinvar, a leading manufacturer of high efficiency water heaters, boilers, swimming pool heaters and hot water storage tanks, began its relationship with Wilson County in 1996 with the opening of a manufacturing facility. Four years later, the company broke ground on a 360,000 square-foot space that would house its headquarters, manufacturing plant, engineering development lab, administrative offices, state-of-the-art training facility and distribution center.

Lochinvar CEO, Bill Vallett said the decision to build Lochinvar’s new world headquarters in Wilson County was based on several factors, including access to employees with a strong work ethic.

“Both the city and county governments offer good support of business,” he said. “Commercial real estate is reasonably priced, and Wilson County provides a good balance of schools and community for our employees. It was a perfect fit for us.”

As for shopping, the county offers an inviting range of experiences from antique stores in its charming downtown squares to some of the largest shopping complexes between Nashville and Knoxville -- with hundreds of restaurants and shops.

Historically, Wilson County has provided high-quality educational opportunities through an outstanding public education system, including a recent $120 million investment in education. Complementing the county’s fine public school systems are several private schools that provide a variety of educational experiences.

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, Hixson explained how Wilson County takes a proactive approach to ensuring its workforce is educated and trained to keep employers competitive in the global economy.

Post-secondary opportunities can be found close to home at historic Cumberland University, which was founded in 1842 and offers an exceptional academic program steeped in liberal arts. Only a short 30-minute drive is award- winning Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University, which recently became the state’s largest undergraduate university.

Opportunities are available for traditional and non-traditional students as they enter the workforce for the first time, or re-enter it with previous experience. The county proposed another vocational school to offer nursing, electrical, engineering and other training to individuals to combine their certifications with the needs of tomorrow.

“When companies dive into the local labor pool, they are greeted with a refreshing experience of an extremely diverse economy held together by professional pride,” Hixson continued.

In addition to international companies like TRW, Permobil and Nissan, Wilson County’s corporate citizens include world- class companies like Cracker Barrel, Lochinvar, Orchid International and Environmental Science Corporation -- all having built either corporate headquarters or facilities in the Middle Tennessee county.

Wilson County entered the housing recession slower than the rest of the nation and has recovered far more quickly. Home sales jumped 25 percent this past summer, as compared to the same time last year.

Single-family construction permits in 2011 rose in Wilson County for the first time in six years, according to The Tennessean survey. That upward trend has not only continued, but accelerated in 2012, with homebuilders filing permits at a 24 percent faster clip than last year through July 31.

Wilson County is also home to various transit-oriented mixed-used developments, including Hamilton Springs, which is currently under construction. These types of developments are a catalyst for growth proven to increase walkability, sustainability and provide transportation and housing choices as the population continues to look for more affordable and active places to live.

Located within the county, Hamilton Springs will provide new and existing residents with more housing and transportation choices so they can pursue the affordable, convenient and active life- styles. Its sub-districts are generally located one-quarter to one-half mile from The Music City Star rail stops and connect the commercial and residential areas.

This new development will become a premier civic, commercial and entertainment district for Wilson County and its municipalities.

Commercial sales in Middle Tennessee, including Wilson County, also experienced a 54 percent year-over-year growth, while land sales jumped 55 percent over the same time period.

Hixson reminds companies, “When deciding between comfort and afford- ability, always choose both, and in Wilson County, that is completely possible.”

For more information about starting, expanding or relocating business operations to Wilson County, contact G.C. Hixson at 615-443-1210, gchixson@doing-biz.org or visit the Joint Economic & Community Development Board of Wilson County at www.doingbiz.org.

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