Maury County Business Climate Grows with New Jobs, Opportunities
Worker at General Motors Plant in Spring Hill, TN
GM employees work on powetrain engines during various stages of the assembly process during an open house at the Spring Hill GM Plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Maury County may be known for its Old South roots and antebellum homes, but with its thriving retail market and diverse industrial base, it boasts one of Tennessee’s most progressive business climates.
The county’s three flourishing municipalities – Columbia (the county seat), Spring Hill and Mount Pleasant – topped the state’s business-friendly rankings in a recent report by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, and an influx of out-of-state businesses have relocated to the region in recent years.
Coming Back Stronger
Adversity often builds unity, and that’s what happened in Maury County after the December 2009 announcement by General Motors in that it would shutter its former Spring Hill plant, displacing more than 6,000 workers.
“The silver lining in that cloud is that it has allowed us to come together as a community and overcome some challenges,” says Brandom Gengelbach, president of the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance.
The result is the successful creation of a four-year economic development strategy funded with $2.7 million raised through a first-time public/private partnership, so that county leadership can focus on attracting knowledge-based companies that will further diversify a strong economic base.
IB Tech Locates, Sekisui Plastics USA Expands
The efforts are paying off. In September 2010, the Maury County team announced that IB Tech, a subsidiary of Japanese-owned auto parts manufacturer Imasen Electric Industrial Company, would locate its second U.S. facility in Mt. Pleasant. The company, which produces seat adjusters and other automotive parts for clients that include Honda and Nissan, is investing $50 million and creating 385 jobs by 2012.
Sekisui Plastics USA, which located in Maury County in 2006 to produce foam resin polymers used in doors, bumpers and other parts of all U.S.-built Toyotas, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, Hondas and Nissans, is already expanding.
GM is bringing back more than 500 employees to its Spring Hill facility to increase manufacturing capacity of a four-cylinder engine, and Gengelbach is optimistic more GM employment will follow. The car manufacturer is also in the midst of reevaluating its real estate, he says, creating exciting possibilities for the company’s former 320,000 square-foot Northfield training and administrative center.
Thanks to a March 2011 cooperative purchase agreement between GM and the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, Northfield will not only serve as a leading-edge workforce development and career center, it will also serve as a business accelerator, launching entrepreneurial businesses with a focus on emerging technologies, including the soaring solar industry, says Tom Brewer, interim director of the center.
“Having this as an incubator is the ideal,” Brewer, who worked at the Spring Hill facility for 25 years, says. “We have 100,000 square feet dedicated to a workforce development center and 200,000 square feet that can be leased to tenants. It is especially ideal for back-office operations in the insurance and medical industries.”
Business is also on the rise with new restaurants and retail stores opening in downtown Columbia, and construction is booming in Spring Hill, which was named among the fastest growing cities in the nation by BusinessWeek.