Maury County’s competitive advantages – chief among them a strategic location, affordable housing and enviable quality of life – have attracted a record amount of economic investment and reinvestment that is bringing an influx of new jobs requiring a diverse range of skills.
Most recently in Mt. Pleasant, UST Inc, the U.S. subsidiary for global high-end porcelain tile manufacturer Gruppo Concorde, announced construction of an $85 million manufacturing plant, the company’s first in North America. Newcomer Clarcor, a global manufacturer of filtration systems, opened its $10 million research and development Innovation Center in Columbia, also bringing more high-tech positions to the county. Other new arrivals include metal processor and distributor Samuel, Son & Co., Limited, and medical software and support firm Sleep Solutions and Services (S3).
Driving Job Growth
One of the county’s largest employers, General Motors Manufacturing, is significantly increasing the workforce at its Spring Hill plant over the next two years to meet demand generated by production of a new Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia, as well as a new, fuel-efficient engine program. The investment has also attracted supplier companies, such as Comprehensive Logistics and Magna Seating, both of which located to the new supplier park in Spring Hill, along with Ryder Supply Chain Solutions, which is expanding its operations there.
These companies alone are projected to bring more than 1,000 new jobs to Maury County. That’s why the county’s industry and education leaders are actively working to ensure the workforce continues to grow and keep pace with increasing demand. General Motors, for example, is tackling its rising workforce demand head on by not only working with local community and technical colleges to customize training programs, but also reaching out to more unconventional sources to help recruit top talent.
“Ongoing training is critical to the quality of everything that we manufacture at Spring Hill and the safety of our employees,” says Don Rich, personnel director at GM Spring Hill Manufacturing. “Last October, we advertised that we were seeking applications for local talent to our hourly hiring pool. We reached out to media, job placement organizations for veterans, individuals with disabilities and minorities, area chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, civic organizations and nonprofits in this community in our search for potential job candidates.”
Building a Talent Base
Rich says recruitment efforts have also been aided by availability of training programs throughout the area and access to a first-rate school system.
Ceramics production is growing in Maury County. More than 150 companies within 200 miles of the area produce raw materials used in tile manufacturing, such as feldspar, gypsum, shale and ball clay. The region also has interstate, rail and waterway connections that give ceramic makers a geographic edge. One of the world’s leading ceramic tile makers, Italian-based Gruppo Concorde, is opening its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Mt. Pleasant through its North American subsidiary, UST Inc. The $80 million plant will create 180 jobs in the area and produce high-end porcelain tile for global markets. Gruppo Concorde operates sites all over the world and exports its products to more than 130 countries around the globe.
“The efforts of the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, Columbia State, the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and other local schools help ensure that this community has candidates with the training that they need to succeed on the job,” Rich says. “In the future, we see a greater importance for STEM education. As a result, we have been supportive of several programs, including one at Columbia State, for children in our community.”
“Schools have a responsibility to ensure students are well-prepared for these high-tech jobs of the future,” says Maury County Director of Schools Dr. Chris Marczak.
As a result, Maury County Schools has invested more heavily in partnerships with businesses such as Clarcor to give students hands-on training and exposure to a variety of fields.
“It’s our job to get kids a good job,” Marczak says. “Whether they go to college or straight to the workforce, we need to make sure they’re prepared and have the skills to be successful.”
The school system is working on offering more industry certifications that will qualify students for high-paying jobs and give them the option of joining the workforce immediately or attending college first and working in an industrial position part-time while completing a degree.
An even more important goal is ensuring students are able to fill jobs close to home, Marczak adds.
“The community told us that was important,” he says. “Our job is to develop some of those actions during the day so that kids can walk out of high school, and if they don’t want to go to college, they are still well-equipped to get a job somewhere here in Maury County – making good money with good benefits and possibilities for advancement.”