Wil Evans doesn't have just one reason why businesses across the nation and around the globe are choosing Maury County as the place to grow, invest in new facilities and create jobs.
Instead he can name a multitude of reasons why Maury County is attracting growing businesses and why the organization he leads, the Maury County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Alliance, is exceeding its job creation goals.
“Our great location within Middle Tennessee makes us an ideal selection for many types of business," Evans says. "We offer great access to nationwide transit, including interstate and rail. Our workforce is dedicated and affordable, and the community offers top-notch training programs designed to meet the requirements of today’s advanced manufacturing occupations."
Maury County also provides a high quality of life and quick access to Nashville, just a 30-minute drive up Interstate 65, Evans says.
These advantages are drawing a growing group of manufacturers, service providers and other businesses to the area. The 12 largest have announced the creation of about 2,000 jobs since early 2011. This exceeds the Maury Economic Alliance’s own ambitious goal of 1,500 new jobs from January 2011 through December 2014.
Firms investing in the area include Ryder Logistics, which provides kitting (packaging of individual items together) and distribution for the automotive industry; Magna Seating, which moved a portion of its operations to Columbia to assemble seats for the GM-produced Chevrolet Equinox; and Integrity Nutraceuticals, which produces specialty nutraceutical ingredients.
The largest, IBEX Global, has created 1,400 positions at its call center, where it provides services for companies such as Direct TV and AT&T U-verse.
“IBEX was going to be 400 jobs; now they have hired 1,400 employees and are the crown jewel” of local job creation, says Jan McKeel, executive director of the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance.
IBEX operates its facility at Spring Hill’s Northfield Workforce Development and Conference Center, a building that formerly served as the headquarters of GM’s Saturn division. Now operated by the workforce alliance, the 320,000-square-foot building provides space for commercial operations, conferences and workforce training.
Training at Northfield includes advanced manufacturing, health-care and public safety programs offered through the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and Columbia State Community College to students from across the region.
“We are making sure we have a world-class workforce in the eight-county region south of Nashville,” McKeel says.
Ready for Business
Another community asset is the 547-acre Cherry Glen Industrial Park in Mount Pleasant. The industrial park is part of the Select Tennessee Certified Sites Program – a designation expected to make it even more attractive to expanding companies.
Companies interested in relocating or expanding often reject sites that are not prepared. Industrial sites in the Select Tennessee program are certified to world-class standards that guarantee they are ready for quick development.
This is vital because “many of our state projects are competing against national or international locations,” says Kendrick Curtis, site certification director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
To become certified, a site must have at least 20 developable acres, zoning in place to allow for ease of development and truck-quality road access. Utilities must be available, or there must be a formal plan to extend them.
“The Select Tennessee Certified Sites program assures these companies and site selectors that they are seeing some of the very best sites in the nation – the ‘cream of the crop’ – all ready to go," says Deane C. Foote, president and CEO of Foote Consulting Group, LLC, which helped develop standards for the program.
The certification places Cherry Glen into a higher tier of "deal-ready" sites, Evans says, making it well-positioned to compete for industrial expansions.
"Today’s companies usually evaluate three major factors when looking for a site: risk, speed to market and cost," Evans says. "Having this certification allows us to be able to address these three factors as soon as a prospect walks through the door."
Construction of a 50,000-square-foot building will soon make Cherry Glen even more competitive, he says.
“Having a spec building available in Cherry Glen will allow us to aggressively recruit companies whose priority is to be operational in a short period of time,” Evans says.
It’s just one of the ways Maury County leaders are laying the groundwork for more growth and investment in the future.