Wilson County, Tennessee: Rising To The Challenge With Resilience

They call it "Wilson Strong:" devastated by a pandemic and a tornado, this Tennessee community met the challenge and kept its dreams intact.

By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2021 Issue

Certainly 2020 was a year of great challenges, changes and transformation for all entities both public and private. This was definitely the case for Wilson County and its cities of Lebanon, Mt Juliet and Watertown. Nashville’s eastern neighbor, the Wilson County community not only dealt with the challenges of the COVID pandemic but also suffered an EF-3 tornado on March 3rd, which claimed three lives while damaging over 1,300 residential and commercial buildings, including two major schools.

While devastating, the story of perseverance throughout the community has been one similar to that of the story which details the “rising phoenix.” It has been a story of resiliency, a story of healing and support and a story of community. Its theme then and today is centered on the commitment to not allow certain events to dictate the outcome and to not allow them to either reduce or restrict a community’s goals and dreams. It was, and is, a story of a community’s refusal to be neither restricted nor made less by certain uncontrollable events.Wilson County, TN

What defined Wilson County and its cities, were their abilities to respond in a professional, coordinated and caring manner. Emergency services and governmental entities sprang into action followed by an army of local, regional and state volunteers. From these events came the formation of a movement simply identified as “Wilson Strong,” a network of citizens, leaders, businesses and religious institutions that provided services through their caring and loving hearts and hands.

The unknown and negative events of 2020 did not define Wilson County, nor its cities, but rather made it stronger. Addressing the effects of a natural disaster while also dealing with the COVID crisis exhibited both the community’s strength of leadership and a community’s resolve.

The Joint Economic and Community Development Board (JECDB) of Wilson County, Tennessee, a joint county and city organization, assisted in the relocation of over 2.5 million square feet of manufacturing, service and logistics space. It also assisted commercial and retail establishments in their return to operation by coordination of local, state and national assistance—all during a time of limited office hours and/or access.

One of the major positive economic stories of 2020 was the continual expansion of medical services by Vanderbilt Health. Vanderbilt Health added both the Vanderbilt Women’s Health Center and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to its Lebanon, Tennessee campus. The expanded medical services will not only increase the medical quality of life to both Wilson County residents but also continues to transform Vanderbilt Health into a regional health care institution.

Nationally and internationally recognized companies alike confirmed their confidence in Wilson County in 2020. Amazon’s existing operation center in Lebanon, Tennessee was joined by its announcement of another 3.6 million-square-foot, $400 million, 3,000 employee fulfillment center in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, as well as its 600,000-square-foot “last-mile” Delivery Station Center in Wilson County in 2020.

Cold Chain Technologies, a recognized provider of reusable and single-use thermal packaging solutions used in the packaging of temperature sensitive life-science products, located in their new 255,000 square foot facility in 2020. The operation, which employs 262 associates, is one of multiple new facilities locating to the Speedway Industrial Park in Wilson County.

Moldex-Metric, Inc., a California company which specializes in hearing and respiratory protective products, also expanded to Lebanon, Tennessee when they purchased their 90,000-square-foot facility. Their 225 employees will produce N95 mask respirators used extensively by healthcare and first response professionals. Expansion plans include the construction of an additional on-site structure as additional product lines are added.

While 2020 was a year of adjustment, it did see the continuation of many positive economic trends. Wilson County’s population continued to exhibit its decade long average of over a 3 percent growth rate, which is anticipated to bring the 2025 county population to 169,371 residents.

The Wilson County School System and Lebanon Special School District continued providing quality services during restrictive guidelines while continuing facilities repairs and expansion. This was accomplished while maintaining their “Exemplary District” recognitions from the Tennessee Department of Education. Area ACT scores for the 2019-20 school year ranked 12th among the state of Tennessee’s 127 public school districts.

To better address employee readiness, local employers, governmental officials and area educational professionals launched the “Wilson Works” program in 2020. The goal of the organization is to further define and improve the pathways from training programs to employment opportunities. The program director will establish and coordinate the activities between the employers and education institutions. Initial participants include Wilson County School System, Cumberland University, Volunteer State Community College and the area State of Tennessee Technology Centers.

Many believe that real economic development and advancement best occur at the local level. Wilson County, Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown, Tennessee confirmed and exhibited this in 2020. It was guided by proven leadership and fueled by the strength of its community. Wilson County invites those that desire to be a part of a dynamic, expanding and caring community to become part of the “Wilson Strong” adventure. You can take the first step by visiting www.doingbiz.org.

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