When one thinks of the economy in Maury County, manufacturing and automotive may be the first industries to come to mind. However, tucked away less than an hour from the Nashville metropolitan area, the county is growing as a tech hub that boasts small town charm. The county has a rising reputation of encouraging innovative companies to grow and become successful, while businesses are recognizing the area as a place to invest, grow and live.
Sleep Solutions and Services (S3) opened its doors in Columbia in 2015. The software-based medical device company offers live patient solutions for respiratory medical conditions – specifically sleep apnea – and chose the area because of its connections and community amenities. The call center it located in the area created 137 new jobs and is home base for S3’s “Sleep Coaches,” who help fulfill patient orders, as well as provide live tech support.
Columbia proved to be the ideal location in health-industry rich Middle Tennessee, and the ongoing support experienced from its sister company, medical device supplier Medical Necessities, knew Maury County was a good fit for its tech-based business.
“Being in Maury County for more than 10 years meant we knew the community and have many contacts here,” says David Baxter, president of S3. “We have been very fortunate from the support Columbia has provided us. Our employee base and patients have doubled in the last year.”
When SoftSpace wanted to relocate its trade show company from Maine, it was looking for a hometown community feel but with access to suppliers and major highways. Columbia fit just right, fulfilling its needs and then some with readily available talent. The company specializes in trade show design, creating and fabricating custom exhibits, as well as custom printing, event management and interior build-outs for clients that span across a multitude of industries. The crew of 36 does everything from sales to design to sewing to metal fabrication, all under one roof.
And for the jobs that need the finesse of local talent, Columbia provides top-notch metal workers, wood workers and cabinetry makers who can turn SoftSpace’s designs and know-how into reality. The secret to its success in the region lies in building relationships, says Michelle Fitzgerald, SoftSpace general manager.
“Get to know your city officials, your local banks, the chamber. Get involved in your community. The expression ‘in a small town, everybody knows everything,’ well, we take advantage of that in a positive way,” says Fitzgerald.
SoftSpace hopes to continue to grow business in the area and thinks of all of its leaders and employees as more than just coworkers – something common in a smaller community.
“Each employee becomes part of our family, and we’re really excited about the future,” says Fitzgerald.
Revitalized and Revamped
In 2015, full-service marketing agency, NeXperia (now known as West Seventh Co.) put its offices in a historic building on the square in downtown Columbia. Little did they know that the new space would lead to a whole new identity for the company. The company made the move to Columbia without one client in the area in 2013. Thanks to the involvement of the community, that soon changed, and so has the city as a whole.
“There really wasn’t much here when we moved here,” says Kim Hayes, president of West Seventh Company. “Now the lifestyle here is great for younger people, there’s coffee shops, music, records and fiber optic connection – it’s more livable. And we have other tech companies on the square now too, like web development company, Blackwood Media.”
West Seventh’s new office renovation project just happened to be an old camera shop. The previous owner had hundreds, if not thousands, of historic negatives of the area from the 1800s, which inspired the company to showcase the photos in a gallery in their new offices. The inspiration soon led to the revamp of NeXperia as a company, wanting to envelop the community, as well as the art and creativity that the photographs and Columbia represent. NeXperia soon changed its identity, offices and branding to become West Seventh Company – more fitting of the authentic company and artwork.
“We’re very passionate about revitalizing small town companies and for downtown Columbia. And the community here is really great at connecting people,” says Hayes. “There’s a great lifestyle here, and infrastructure and support. Now our culture, company and lifestyle match the vibe.”