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What a Difference A Day (Year) Makes!
By: George Halford | 02.01.15

The old adage is true, isn’t it?  Especially in Cookeville, Putnam County, and the Highlands of TN this past year.  365 sunrises and sunsets, a brief speck of sand in the hourglass of time, and here we are, we believe, poised for a much-improved economy in 2015 and brighter sunrises to come.  “Hope springs eternal in the human breast!”

            I was locked and loaded last Tuesday evening in my usual cockpit, our kitchen table, as I began preparation for your Chamber’s monthly “homily”, Chamber Chatter, which was to be published, as in 2014 coincidentally, on Super Bowl Sunday.  As the famous philosopher and baseball great Yogi Berra once famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again!” As a quick, totally irrelevant aside, who played in last year’s game?  Who won?  What was the score?  Time marches, no, runs on, doesn’t it?

            But I digress, again!

            I began by rereading last year’s article titled “Winning”.  As I reviewed the words and thoughts of a year ago, it occurred to me that those were the observations of a somewhat frustrated individual who felt very deeply that our community and Highlands region had “paid forward” the required community development/infrastructure price, a long term, expensive prequel to primary job creation, and, because of circumstances largely beyond our control, the global economy, recession, among others, had not been able to enjoy the fruits of our hard labor.  We had essentially completed the new Highlands Business Park, successfully lobbied for the new fifth interstate interchange connecting the park and the region to I-40; and concurrently as a part of the deal, gained City approval for a TDOT-required, locally-funded connector road from I-40 and the new business park to U.S. Hwy 70, and downtown, TTU, and CRMC.  These are huge, community-changing infrastructure investments that will pay enormous benefits over time.

            Yes, we had won, tasted victory, in other important economic enterprises, namely record setting visitor attractions, (think AAU, TSSAA, TN HOG Rally, upscale baby Boomer retiree recruitment program, booming healthcare industry, and TTU growth, etc., etc.).  All of these endeavors create jobs for our citizens, and contribute significant tax revenue that funds our government, schools, and quality of life.

            But, but, we hadn’t scored a big win -- code for a new industry -- in quite some time. Just like in sports, a team and coach’s success is ultimately measured by wins and losses.  Chambers of Commerce are no different.  Forty years ago or today, our members expect our organization to be a catalyst, a broker, the quarterback, if you will, among several local, state, and regional partners in closing the deal -- in winning!  We welcome and accept that responsibility!

            Last year, we wrote:

“We now have product (developed land) available for sale today.  We have the right team in place…and we have a strategic marketing plan in place with a refocus and renewed commitment to creating and retaining 21st century advanced manufacturing jobs.”

            “We expect to win – and soon”!

            Well, here we are, “wins” in 2014 with the likes of Academy Sports, TTI and DACCO expansions, and more opportunities on the horizon in 2015.

            It’s certainly a lot more fun, and a lot less frustrating!