Madison Mill relocation cheers Cheatham

Friday, July 11, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 28
By Hollie Deese | Correspondent

This 230,000 square-foot office building in the Cheatham County Industrial Park off Highway 12 South was purchased by Madison Mill, a Nashville-based business that warmed to the ‘cooperative spirit’ of Cheatham County’s long-range development goals.

-- Submitted Photo Courtesy Of Daryl Phillips Of Cheatham Connect

When Nashville-based Madison Mill Inc. announced plans to move its millwork, building material, and lawn and garden business from Charlotte Avenue to Ashland City by the end of 2015, it was the result of aggressive efforts by a coalition of local leaders to bring new business and investments, increased jobs and a more enriched quality of life to the Cheatham County area.

It’s known as Cheatham Vision, an economic, business, and workforce development plan to grow education, workforce, industry, tourism, senior living and retail.

For several years, the governments of Cheatham County, Ashland City, Pleasant View, Kingston Springs and Pegram through the Joint Economic and Community Development Board, the Cheatham County Chamber of Commerce, the Cheatham County Development Association and Industrial Development Board and County Commission have worked to develop and enact the Vision program.

The plan is financed through the Chamber and JECDB’s regular budgets in addition to funds from private businesses in the community.

“We’ve tried to deal with barriers to help promote the county in such a way that businesses like Madison Mill would come here,” Cheatham County Mayor David McCullough says, of the group that meets monthly, if not more often.

“Our plan is to continue this cooperative spirit.”

Development tax reduced

McCullough explains that after the 2010 Census pinpointed Cheatham County as having the least amount of growth in Tennessee, coupled with the fact it also had one of the highest development tax rates, something major had to be done.

“It cost almost us much to build here at the time as it did to build in Williamson County, and you couldn’t really compare Cheatham County to Williamson County,” McCullough adds. “We should compare ourselves more to Dickson and Robertson counties.”

So in June 2013, the Cheatham County Commission drastically reduced its development tax from $3,750 to $50, and its adequate facilities tax from $1 per square foot to 10 cents.

“Now, our prices are in line with other counties that are like us,” McCullough says. “We are still seeking quality growth but don’t want to put the price so high when it comes to building that we just kill it. You have to have some growth otherwise taxes continue to go up, and people don’t want that. What we see now is more and more building taking place.”

Will workers follow?

Madison Mill purchased a 230,000 square-foot building in the Cheatham County Industrial Park off Highway 12 South that was vacated by Triton Boats in 2011.

“They were at their current facility and in a neighborhood that is really in the process of going in a different direction than manufacturing,” says Daryl Phillips, director of economic development with Cheatham County JECDB, of the company’s decision to move.

“When I came on board it was one of my priorities to find a good company and fill that building. Madison Mill is a family-oriented company that certainly fits in with the business environment in Ashland City and Cheatham County.”

The Braxton Condominiums in Ashland City.

-- Submitted Photo Courtesy Of Daryl Phillips Of Cheatham Connect

Madison Mill currently has 125 employees, and Phillips hopes the area will gain some of them as residents.

“We are going to get more of a daytime population that is going to help us in our retail recruitment efforts, and it is also going to provide job growth in Ashland City,” Phillips says.

“Our workforce is not so much geared toward manufacturing as it once was, but we still have a base of our labor force that is attractive to manufacturing.”

Located between Interstates 24 and 40, Cheatham County is just a 25-minute drive from the Nashville International Airport. McCullough says the county has one of the highest commuter rates in the state at 18.5 percent, so new business coming to the area only helps offset the time people lose driving into Nashville.

“What is exciting about bringing Madison Mill into Cheatham County is that it is going to keep people here during the day to eat at our restaurants for lunch and to shop at Walmart, and that is good for us,” McCullough adds.

More good news

In May, good news came for the Braxton Condominiums in Ashland City as well.

Finished in 2009, the condos fell into receivership, and buyers were suing to get out of purchase contracts. With two towers that have 68 units each, most of them had been sitting vacant.

In April 2013, Colorado-based Real Capital Solutions paid $14.6 million for the two towers and hired Florida-based Patten Cos., to handle sales. All 68 condos in the east tower are now sold.

In April 2014, Patten bought the second tower from Real Capital for $13.45 million, and most of the units have been sold at less than half of the original price.

The original $60 million dollar investment of the condos before the real estate downturn was made by John Rankin of Nashville’s Progress Capital Partners.

“We are excited about the fact the Braxton is getting full, if not completely sold,” McCullough says. “When businesses move in they want to make sure there are quality homes. Rooftops do matter.”

Cheatham County is also in the process of building its first assisted living facility, the new Vantage Pointe Village in Ashland City.

“For the last four years we have been trying to change the perception that Cheatham County is too far, or there are too many barriers for business,” McCullough says.

“We have been working hard to make sure barriers are dealt with. If a business comes in we can get answers immediately on zoning, we can immediately get commissioners to talk about incentives.

“We have a lot of cooperation which I think equals success.”