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Industries eye Wilson County

By Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Wilson County has seen a strong year in terms of economic development, and more businesses continue to eye the area almost daily, according to a county official.

G.C. Hixson, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board, said he’s received as many as three inquiries in one day from companies considering relocation to the county.

“If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I’d say it was slowing down for the Christmas period, but then I got three calls just [Friday],” said Hixson. “It’s good for us; it’s strong. Distribution projects continue to be strong for us.”

He said most of the county’s competitors are the other mid-state counties, such as Maury, Williamson and Rutherford, which can be tough at times depending on how the other counties operate.

“We do not control our own industrial property like Maury County does,” said Hixson. “Communities that control their own products are typically less expensive [for the companies] than when a developer owns the properties.”

And available property is among the prime factors when courting industry.

“One of the challenges is having adequate manufacturing space – just having enough property to respond,” said Hixson.

And that property must be of an adequate size and location, and the owner must be willing to sell, which is not always the case.

The other key issue is having a trained workforce available.

“The College of Applied Technology, I’m a big supporter of that,” said Hixson. “If we can train welders, or IT folks, or culinary arts or computer repair, we can show that to [potential companies].”

To that end, he said the best things the county can do is aim to keep the county’s workforce in Wilson County and ensure there are plenty of opportunities for training and employment.

And with the number of companies actively looking at relocating to Wilson County, the county seems to be making good headway on that front.

According to Hixson, the JECDB is currently in discussions with more than a dozen unidentified companies considering the area.

One company toured three Wilson County sites in consideration for a 1.8-million-square-foot distribution or fulfillment center.

Another company visited buildings and a site for a dual manufacturing and distribution complex. That particular project would involve a 200,000-550,000-square-foot facility and a 500,000-1.2 million-square-foot facility and bring in about 1,000 new jobs.

Wilson County is also being considered for a new manufacturing facility to service automotive OEM. The facility, an $82 million investment, would employ up to 300 workers.

Yet another company considering Wilson County would employ up to 150 workers.

But while all these projects and more are on the plate now, they could take a year or more to come to fruition and some may never come to fruition.

Hixson said the companies consider multiple sites, often in multiple counties or even states, through the majority of the decision process.

“You’re just trying not to be eliminated,” said Hixson.

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