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Hooper, Graham talk industrial recruitment

By ZOË WATKINS ~ zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 12/24/22

With 2023 just around the corner, Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership CEO Shane Hooper and Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham reflected on the county’s industrial climate …

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Hooper, Graham talk industrial recruitment


With 2023 just around the corner, Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership CEO Shane Hooper and Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham reflected on the county’s industrial climate today and where it’s going.

According to the U.S. Census, Shelbyville is growing at 1.9% while Bedford County is growing at a rate of 1.8% a year. Though this rate is faster than Tennessee as a whole, according to Hooper, Bedford has been growing at this rate for a while.

So, the growth is coming. Now, it’s matter of bringing the kind of growth you want.
“We have got to provide our people a better way forward,” said Hooper.

Graham added, “All the mayors across the state of Tennessee are dealing with rapid growth, even in rural settings. And they’re going to have to find other ways to generate property tax.”

The goal of industrial recruitment is to bring more and better jobs for the people and to bring in revenue—from sales tax, capital investment, and hotel/motel funds, according to Hooper.

“The industrial climate is there to provide for those two items of better jobs and revenue,” said Hooper.

“The discussion needs to be, what are our revenue streams? What does our tax revenue look like?” Hooper said. “We get revenues from industries.”

In this way, the last source for taxation is the individual.

An economic model

Hooper explained, “When we have industries, they get taxed on their capital investment.” There are companies in Bedford that bring in $3 million worth of equipment, which gets taxed, thus maximizing existing resources.

So, how do we bring in the right kind of industry to help with this revenue stream?

Well, industrial and retail recruitment are not linear, according to Hooper.

For instance, you have soil sampling, title searches, jurisdictional water reports, resistivity training, data reports, incentives, tax comparisons, growth projections, labor participation rates, educational retainment levels, site development comparisons—to name just a few.

“And you have to work the entire area. You have to work retail and manufacturing; you’ve got to make sure public education and safety are good,” Hooper explained.

“It used to be industrial recruitment was more about place. Now, it’s about the people,” said Hooper.

Quality of place and life

Creating a business-friendly environment starts with having a qualified workforce. The Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership has made workforce development one of their top priorities, according to Hooper.

“Who’s working for the 53 percent of Bedford’s high school graduates that go directly into the workforce? That’s where our workforce development programs come in,” said Hooper.

For example, they bring in 8th graders and seniors to the Calsonic Arena for a career fair, featuring local industries.

But attracting a workforce also comes from establishing a business retention program as well as improving quality of life here in Bedford.

“You’ve got to have property for the plant to come to, but you’ve also got to have people. What attracts people? Quality of place,” said Hooper.

It’s one of the reasons why the Partnership is looking at recruiting three hotels, six restaurants, and two grocery store opportunities.

“Hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores are some of our biggest leakage areas in retail. We have got to address those areas first,” said Hooper.

Hooper said, according to studies, 6% of Tullahoma’s Publix customers come from Bedford County. The Walmart Supercenter in Murfreesboro has 5.8% of customers from Bedford County. Additionally, Hooper said, Shelbyville loses a lot of hotel/motel tax to Murfreesboro and Tullahoma.

Again, not only does it provide a better quality of life but also a source of tax revenue.
It’s all part of the business retention and expansion program. “You’ve got to go out and visit with these companies to make sure they feel supported,” said Hooper.

In addition to an effective retail recruitment plan, Graham said counties need to have secure public safety and public education to increase quality of life.

“People have choices these days, and you have to be competitive,” said Hooper. “When you don’t have those offerings, a lot of times they’ll just go somewhere else where they can.

Why is that a problem? Because that’s the folks you need to staff the jobs at these manufacturers.”

Bedford has a lot of positives, such as the Duck River. “You can have quality of place, like the Duck River, but if you don’t have a way to enjoy the Duck River—quality of life—you’re still not getting there,” said Hooper. “People these days are more interested in their quality of life, driven by quality of place.”