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VOL. 37 | NO. 2 | Friday, January 11, 2013

Robertson pressures Midstate neighbors

By Bill Lewis

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Middle Tennessee’s largest office construction projects are centered in Nashville and Cool Springs, but significant commercial real estate developments are taking root throughout the region.

From Rutherford and Wilson counties, where Amazon.com has opened 1 million-square-foot logistics centers, to Maury County, which plans to open a new industrial park to capitalize on the completion of State Route 840, to Clarksville-Montgomery County, which is enjoying substantial retail growth, governments and local, regional, national and even international businesses are investing millions of dollars.

Robertson County

Electrolux, with more than 3,300 workers and the county’s largest employer, completed a significant expansion in 2012 which added 20,000 square feet of research and development space and testing labs to support the company’s new operation in Memphis.

Macy’s Logistics, Martinrea Fabco and Tate Ornamental have also seen physical and employment expansions, says Margot Fosnes, president and chief economic development officer for the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce.

Two new industries relocated to Robertson County in the past 18 months along the I-65 corridor between Portland and Orlinda. Kyowa America, a plastic injection molding supplier for Toyota, relocated from Pennsylvania. FWE Corp., a maker of food-warming equipment for the restaurant industry, moved from Chicago. Together, they will bring nearly 300 jobs to the area, she says.

“Our population grew more than 20 percent in the last decade, among the top 10 counties in the state, and we believe that the combination of lower costs, convenience to Nashville and the appeal of our ‘small-town’ communities will attract a larger share of the region’s growth in the next decade,” Fosnes says.

“On the business side, as our population grows to hit market targets, more retailers will be looking to locate in either the Springfield-Greenbrier corridor or the White House area,” she says.

Springfield and White House have attracted new retail and restaurant business, mostly through remodeling of existing space. Jet’s Pizza, Zaxby’s, Berry D-Lite, Waffle House, Burkes Outlet, and several medical clinics have located in the Springfield and White House areas. The Springfield Kroger is looking at an expansion. Three of the county’s four car dealerships underwent significant remodeling and upgrading of showroom space in 2012, she says.

Highland Crest College Campus, a collaborative project involving the city of Springfield, Robertson County, NorthCrest Medical Center and private donors, which opened in the fall of 2011, continues to exceed enrollment expectations.

Classes from Volunteer State Community College and Austin Peay State University are being offered, bringing a college education within reach for Robertson County residents who might be unable to afford the time or cost of attending another school, Fosnes says.

Rutherford County

Nissan has retooled its plant in Smyrna for production of the LEAF and expanded the facility for production of the batteries that power the all-electric vehicle. Combined, those developments represent an investment of up to $1.7 billion.

Amazon’s logistics center, located along I-24 on the south side of Murfreesboro, opened in October.

Nearby, General Mills expanded the facility where Pillsbury frozen biscuits and Yoplait yogurt are made.

“I think we’re poised for even more growth,” says Paul Latture, president of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. “Established companies and new companies are looking to establish operations in Rutherford County.”

The state is investing heavily in construction projects on the campus of MTSU, Tennessee’s largest university. New or planned buildings include a $147 million Science Building, a $16 million Student Services Building and two parking structures valued at $23.5 million.

Wilson County

Amazon.com’s logistics center is one of several major projects. Bel Air, a mixed use development encompassing about 500 acres in Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and unincorporated areas of the county, is under way.

“They’ve already started clearing land. It’ll be a mixture of residential and commercial. Look at Providence,” says Mt. Juliet City Commissioner Jim Bradshaw. Providence, the master planned community off I-40, combines residential, shopping, entertainment and restaurants.

Another significant project, Providence Central, a development of mid-rise office buildings, houses, apartments and retail, is being planned for 270 acres in Mt. Juliet. Land Innovations LLC, an affiliate of CPS Land, is proposing the project. CPS is the main developer behind Providence.

Middle Tennessee’s first mass-transit subdivision, with a depot for the Music City Star commuter train at its heart, is being developed in West Lebanon.

Hamilton Springs is expected to appeal to commuters who want to take the train to downtown Nashville instead of fighting traffic on Interstate 40 or U.S. 70. If Nashville Mayor Karl Dean’s vision becomes a reality, riders will be able to make convenient connections with bus rapid transit service to destinations beyond downtown.

“The people who work in Midtown (the district near Vanderbilt University) are the people we’re marketing to,” says Jay Everett, a landscape architect with Lose & Associates, the Nashville firm planning Hamilton Springs.

The development will have mixed-use buildings with small retailers, coffee shops and restaurants on the first floor and offices and residences above. Hamilton Springs eventually may have up to 2,500 homes, including apartments and single-family houses, within its 262 acres. About 20 percent of the area is reserved for green space.

Montgomery County

Agero didn’t build its own facility for its call center, but the company became the first tenant of a privately developed speculative building. Agero provides real-time driver roadside assistance for several companies.

The facility is in FRE Resource’s 53,000-square-foot spec building in the expanded portion of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park. The $8.2 million call center will eventually create 500 jobs.

Retail developments are surging in Clarksville, says Jeff Bibb, a partner in BLF Marketing who is active in city planning.

“New retail and strip centers are springing up in Clarksville at an unprecedented rate. These centers are difficult to quantify in terms of cumulative square footage and annualized sales. However, new development and rehabilitations of existing centers is occurring on practically every major thoroughfare,” he says.

Examples include two Publix Supermarket Centers that opened in 2012.

Along the Madison Street corridor, Madison Street Commons and its Publix anchor store are part of an influx of retail development. In addition to Madison Street Commons and Publix, Bibb says this corridor now includes Lowe’s, condominiums and apartment complexes, Kroger, a Wal-Mart supercenter, at least seven small strip centers and nine financial institutions.

Cheatham County

This county northwest of Nashville believes it is in the sweet spot for future development and is laying the groundwork to attract it.

County officials plan to place the infrastructure businesses and residential developers need – water and sewer pipes and electrical lines – along I-24, says Chris Neese, executive director of the Cheatham County Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s our corridor for growth. It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “You put in infrastructure between Clarksville and Nashville and you’ll see growth.”

With just 7,900 jobs in the entire county – many service jobs held by out-of-county workers – Cheatham has long been a bedroom community for workers who commute south to Nashville and north to Montgomery County. Thanks to their wages and salaries, Cheatham County has the sixth-highest income in Tennessee.

“This will be the emerging jewel in Middle Tennessee,” Neese says of the infrastructure plan. “We have to make the soil fertile. We have to have the infrastructure ready.”

Dickson County

This county at the western end of SR 840 is poised for growth, says David Hamilton, president and CEO of the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce.

“From a business standpoint, we now have access to southern Tennessee and Georgia without having to go through Nashville,” now that SR 840 is open and links Dickson County with I-65 South.

The county has recovered from the recession and is looking forward, he says.

“We’ve recovered the jobs we lost, plus 200 or 300” in addition, Hamilton says.

Maury County

Officials are considering the purchase of 200 acres along I-65 for a new industrial park. They hope to attract new businesses now that the southern loop of SR 840 is complete and finally connects with I-40 west of Nashville at Dickson.

They say SR 840 will make it easier for goods manufactured in Maury County to reach customers across the country along the I-40 corridor. Trucks traveling from Maury County no longer have to drive on narrow state highways or go miles out of their way to connect with I-40 in Nashville before heading west.

State Route 840 “opens up (a corridor) from Memphis to Texas,” says Brandom Gengelbach, president of Maury Alliance, the county’s economic development organization.

In Columbia, Maury Regional Medical Center has opened a state-of-the-art medical facility adjacent to the retail areas of the Columbia Mall. The nearly 40,000-square-foot facility houses the hospital’s expanded cancer treatment center.

Since acquiring the Columbia Mall in 2004, Hull Storey Gibson Companies has been working to redevelop the property as a mixed-use facility.

“One Hundred Oaks (the Nashville mall occupied by retailers and Vanderbilt University Medical Center) is a good concept of what it could become, a good mix of medical and retail,” says Wil Evans, manager of economic development for Maury Alliance.

In Spring Hill, Maury Regional Medical Center has constructed a new 62,365-square-foot surgery center, to be run by Vanderbilt Operative Services. Outpatient surgical services are expected to include orthopedic, gynecological, ophthalmologic, urologic and ear, nose and throat procedures.

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