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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 10, 2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Secretary of the Treasury Visits Ultium Cells (Tennessean)

The site of the soon-to-be-completed Ultium Cells battery plant in Spring Hill was abuzz Wednesday as Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen spoke to employees about how the Inflation Reduction Act and other Biden-Harris Administration policies are incentivizing historic investments in clean energy manufacturing.

When operational later this year, the massive 2.8 million-square-foot, $2.6 billion UItium Cells plant will produce all of the battery cells for neighboring General Motors' production of the Cadillac Lyriq as well as GM's future electric vehicle production.

Yellen told the small crowd gathered in a massive warehouse space inside the Ultium Cells facility that since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law six months ago, "...clean energy firms up and down the supply chain have announced tens of billions of dollars in projects that will create thousands of high-quality, good-paying jobs."

One analysis, she said, "indicates that 2022 was a record year for EV battery manufacturing in particular. Last year alone, more than $73 billion in planned projects were announced."

Ultium Cells, LLC already received a $2.5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to help finance the construction of new lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Michigan as well as Tennessee's Maury County.

President Joe Biden has called for half of all American auto sales to be electric by 2030 and GM hopes to adopt an all-electric portfolio by 2040.

Yellen spoke about how the Inflation Reduction Act is onshoring battery production in addition to creating incentives. China currently produces 70% of batteries for EVs and the Inflation Reduction Act’s incentives for battery manufacturing will help the United States grow the domestic clean energy economy.   

"The Inflation Reduction Act is offering meaningful tax credits to spur clean energy investment and production. Importantly, the law deliberately encourages place-based investments. It offers additional incentives for businesses to invest in low-income and historic energy communities. And it also requires employers to pay prevailing wages and employ apprentices to receive full credits. That’s a requirement that went into effect last month."

Tennessee stands to be a major player in that transition towards clean energy production. Ford is investing $5.6 billion in Blue Oval City, a 4,100-acre electric vehicle and battery campus near Memphis, and Volkswagen has launched a $33 million battery engineering lab to test electric vehicle technology in Chattanooga.

In May, GM launched the all-electric Cadillac Lyriq at its Spring Hill plant.

Yellen said her focus at Treasury is effective implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.

"To do so, we are bringing a broad and diverse set of stakeholders to the table. And we are working expeditiously to maximize the economic benefits of the legislation – while making sure we enact effective guardrails so benefits are delivered as intended," she explained.

The expectation is year over year growth.

"Over the next year, I suspect that you will see activity accelerate. More ideas turning into plans. Plans into construction sites – just like this one. And construction sites into bustling factories. And with it, I hope, a renewed sense of optimism about America’s future."

Annie Moses Conservatory Opens in Columbia (CDH)

Early music education is often tied with many positive traits, such as learning a good discipline, the patience of practice, build confidence and a possible career path in the future. This has been the mission of the Annie Moses Band, whose music conservatory program in Columbia aims to attract kids of all ages.

Founded in Franklin in 2020, the Annie Moses Music Conservatory recently opened its full-time facility in Columbia, located at 614 N. Main St. next to Destiny Church and the former Vintage Winery. The program is now in its first full semester, and the response has been overwhelming, not just in attracting local students, but others from around the region.

"Over the last seven years, we've had people from 10 different states that are all part of the conservatory," Director Annie Dupre said. "About 30% of our student body are from out of state and travel in twice a month to be a part of the program here. We've got about 115 students that are a part of it, and ever since moving to Columbia we've had new people joining just about every week. It's exciting to see all of that happen."

Dupre, whose background includes studying at The Julliard School in New York and performing in places like Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, said there are many joys to having a building full of budding musicians to interact with every day. But mostly, it's in watching the students' faces light up when they realize they are not only learning something, but having a lot of fun in the process.

"Every person should study music, because God made the human race all musical and artistic. That's part of what it means to be human," Dupre said. "The more you develop that in your child, the more they are fearless and courageous, not afraid to stand on a stage and introduce themselves. It's more than about playing chords, but the ability to go into any kind of space and not be afraid of the audience, which bleeds over into all sorts of things."

The conservatory's origins begin with the acclaimed Annie Moses Band itself, which consists of a family of highly trained musicians over multiple generations.

The group's founders, Bill and Robin Wolaver, are both award-winning songwriters from Nashville.

"My mother was a very Olympic-level practitioner, and our family ended up moving to New York to study at the Juliard school, my brothers and I," Dupre said. "We were like 11, 13 and 16 and went there to study, and shortly after a three-year stint in New York, we started the Annie Moses Band and began touring."

One of the things that attracted early fans was how the Wolavers were able to develop this kind of artistry in their kids, and if other kids could benefit from having similar opportunities. This eventually led to the band's first nonprofit, the Annie Moses Foundation, which consisted of a summer institute and music festival, which still operates today and will make its Columbia debut this summer.

This eventually led to a stronger interest in establishing a permanent spot for children to be involved throughout the year, as well as growing its programming opportunities.

"We've done that summer program for 20 years, and about eight years ago we started getting more people that wanted us to start working with their children full time," Dupre said. "It was because we were combining a really unique set of things. We were taking a classical conservatory model, which has a very robust core curriculum that every body takes, along with your individual disciplines and commercial training as well, all within a faith-based umbrella."

The Annie Moses Band's journey to Columbia began in 2019 when the Wolavers sold their home in Brentwood to purchase a Maury County farm.

The move also included relocating the family's production company, which produces a children's show called "The Wonderful World of Benjamin Cello" to Columbia.

It was also at this time that the family discovered the city's expanding art scene, its resources for music and opportunities for kids.

"We were working a lot of our business out of Columbia, and then there is this sort of burgeoning of the arts that's happening right now, which was really exciting to see. It just made it very natural when this place became available," Dupre said. "

Now as a full-time operation, the Annie Moses Music Conservatory offers a wide range of programming, with all ages and skill levels welcome. This includes lessons in strings, piano, percussion, voice and possibly one-day including brass and woodwind instruments as well.

"The thing that's really amazing is that it's a combination of things," Dupre said. "You can play an instrument, sing, take an acting course, or a course in songwriting. Every student learns to be fully fluent in music."

For more information on the Annie Moses Band, its mission or how to get your child involved in the Columbia Music Conservatory, visit, or visit the school's storefront. The conservatory will also host a special open house during March First Fridays, which runs from 5-8 p.m. and will include performances by the school's students out front on South Main Street.

Most of all, Dupre thinks the biggest benefit will be not just to the individual student who attends the Annie Moses Music Conservatory, but how the lessons and discipline will hopefully expand beyond the school and into their adult lives, benefiting the community at large in the end.

"A lot of the time, music lessons don't necessarily succeed in making you a powerful music communicator, and that's what our program succeeds at doing. And we do that because we care about God's kingdom, which is a beautiful and wonderful thing," Dupre said.

"You know what the purpose of your music is, who you are and what you have to say, and that you are given the toolbox by which you can succeed. That's what we want to accomplish."

Spring Hill Fire Station #4 (CDH)

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen examined designs for the proposed Fire Station 4 this week, which staff promises to be a much-needed upgrade to Spring Hill Fire Department's growing needs.

The need for a new station has been in the works for many years, beginning around 2018-2019. Fire Chief Graig Temple said he hopes the process will not take that much longer now that a design is on the table. As of now, the station is expected to open and be fully operational at the corner of Duplex and Buckner roads by November of 2024.

"This is truly going to be a hub for the community," Temple said. "We are looking for this building to be a 50-year plan, and so it's going to be around for a long time."

The new 17,023 square-foot station's proposed design, created by Renaissance Group consulting firm, will keep the traditional fire hall look and feel, but with a whole lot more resources available for staff, as well as office space for Spring Hill Police personnel. This includes individual dorm rooms for staff, four drive-thru bays, spaces for training and an in-house gym.

Other features include a commercial kitchen, as well as a conference room that doubles as an emergency storm shelter. The station will also be dedicated to the memory of former firefighter Mitchell Earwood, who died May 3, 2020 while off duty.

As far as the public benefit, Station 4 will also create an immediate impact on SHFD's response times, Temple added. It will also allow the opportunity to hire 15 new firefighters, which has been another need for the department.

"Once Station 4 is up and running we're expecting to see about a 25% decrease in response times, specifically in that area, as well as other areas in providing need to those other stations," Temple said. "The hiring for the firefighters at this station also needs to be staggered. We'd like to try and hire six in January, and then the other nine in July, which allows us to do promotions for other positions, and also get these folks on board and ready to work as this station is ready to open."

Mayor Jim Hagaman jokingly asking Temple if there will also be a traditional fire pole. Temple replied, saying a fire pole will be part of the design, he and his staff just aren't sure who'll be brave enough to try it out first.

"It's a tradition to install a fire pole. Aesthetically it's going to be very pleasing, and it's also going to be very functional," Temple said. "We're taking bets on who's going to be the first one that wants to go down. During an open house, I think it's going to be a lot of fun to see that."

The project is expected to break ground in October, with a construction cost estimated at $6 million.

However, some city staff raised concerns whether city could afford it given the need for other capital projects, such as addressing the city's water capacity issues, multiple roadway projects, as well as a new library and police headquarters.

"I am overjoyed with this plan, but what I am not overjoyed with is the cash flow situation we need to look at," City Administrator Pam Caskie said. "Whether we can get there in exactly the time frame the chief would like to get there is an unknown. Another thing we are all dealing with right now is the increasing cost of everything."

The site plan design will appear as part of a resolution later this month, where the BOMA will vote its recommendation to be considered by the planning commission. Once approved, the planning commission will review the design and resubmit the design to the BOMA with its recommendation to approve or deny.

Shapard Lumber (MainStreetMaury)

A staple of the Columbia community, Shapard Lumberyard has been gracing the edge of the downtown Columbia business district for nearly 80 years. The longevity of a local business, owner Terrance Blakesleay says, is rooted in the heart of a community.

“To me, local businesses are the heartbeat of a community,” he said. “The individuals who work here and interact here grew up here or have kids who go to school here – they spend money here. We’re all connected and should have the heart to help one another and help to grow the community as one.

Shapard Lumberyard opened its doors in 1946 and has sat at its current location of 103 Cemetery Avenue in Columbia from day one. Blakesleay says trust and service has been one of the biggest reasons the business has been able to thrive through whatever economic seasons that have come along.

“We are striving to continue, even though local lumber yards are almost extinct these days,” he said. “What we have tried to do is create that niche to provide service and products that big box stores don’t have the ability to provide.”

Having an extensive background in the industry – not only as someone who worked with the business’ second owner David McLain, but with other local and national brands – Blakesleay has the knowledge and foresight to understand any issue a customer may bring in the door.

That’s one reason he and his team have pivoted much of the business to more than selling two-by-fours, including a full-service woodshop.

“We can take care of a project through completion for a customer or just get it to a manageable stage where they can take it home and finish it out,” he said.

One of the biggest moves Blakesleay has made is finding a niche with stone countertops. The fully customizable product has become so popular that his waitlist is growing daily.

“It’s not to compete with granite or marble – it’s a totally different product,” he said. “We design and make it from scratch, so when we finish the product and install it in your house, it looks like we just carved it out of the side of a mountain.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind product. Even if you pick the same color as someone else, it won’t be the same thing. As long as I can think it, I can create it.”

Wood is still the bell cow, however, and when it comes to unique – Blakesleay doesn’t skimp. If there’s a type of wood a customer wants, he’s likely already got some in stock.

“I battle every day and bug my vendors to see what’s coming in so local customers don’t have to travel to other places,” he said. “Local hardwoods are great; those are easy to find. When we’re talking about wenge, purple heart, canary wood, Bolivian rosewood – those are hard to get because they come from different countries.”

While Blakesleay is a native of Detroit, there is no other place he would rather call home. After serving in the Marine Corps, he made a trip to the area to visit family when an ice storm hit. That ice storm, however, was the biggest blessing he could have asked for because while “stuck” in Tennessee, he met his future wife.

The two have raised their children in the Columbia community and have found their calling at Shapard Lumberyard.

“I am a pastor in the community, so I have a passion to help my community,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to buy anything when you come in here. If we’re able to help you and be a beacon of light, that’s what we strive to do.

“What is at the core of a true person who owns a small business is unity and their willingness to want to prop up your community.”

Annual Soup and Bowl Fundraiser (Press Release)

Here is an opportunity to support a great organization in Columbia! Harvest Share Food Pantry is holding their annual Soup-n-Bowl event on Saturday, February 11th, at the Memorial Building from 11:00am - 2:00pm. Adult tickets are $10 and child tickets (ages 5-10) are $5. Enjoy wonderful food from local restaurants, take home a free soup bowl, and bid on your favorite items during the silent auction. 

Tickets can be purchased at the Harvest Share Food Pantry (419 W. 9th St.), at the door the day of the event, or you can call Amanda Taylor at (260) 350-1119. Please join us in helping Harvest Share continue their work in Columbia.

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…

Mrs. Mildred Jones Gibson Crews, 98, retired employee of Methodist Publishing House and resident of Nashville, died Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at her residence. Funeral services for Mrs. Crews will be conducted Sunday at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Friendship Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Sunday from 10:00 A.M. until service time at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Amazon Cuts Back (Tennessean)

In business, as in life, the only constant is change.

Amazon is shedding jobs by the thousands while hiring and construction at the company's Nashville operations hub are on an extended pause.

The downturn comes after years of breakneck growth.

Amazon's $230 million Operations Center of Excellence was heralded as a major boon by Tennessee leaders, destined to propel the state's tech industry to a new level while injecting 5,000 highly paid jobs into the market.

When construction on the Nashville office campus began in 2019, the corporate giant's global momentum showed no signs of slowing. Clusters of its data centers, warehouses and transportation networks mushroomed across most states.

Since fulfilling its promise to hire 2,500 downtown Nashville employees by 2021, Amazon has pumped the brakes.

Work on the second of two towers at Church and 10th Streets in the Gulch stalled after the 28-story-tall high-rise, named after suffragist "Juno" Frankie Pierce, was erected last year. Its neighbor, the 20-story "Anne" building, named for local icon Anne Dallas Dudley, finished in 2021.

The Nashville slowdown comes as the company weathers a tight labor market and a revolution in office work culture bringing a new policy allowing employees to work at home up to four days a week.

The changes necessitated an interior redesign at the Juno building, planned with communal working areas, a large rooftop patio and a dog park for employees who bring their pets to work.

"We’re focused on reimagining work areas that provide improved space for genuine collaboration, brainstorming and socialization," a company representative said. "With that said, our buildings remain long-term investments, so in order to get this right and create the best workspace for our employees, it’s important to take the time to learn and experiment."

In a show of enthusiasm for the coveted office campus filled with six-figure salary jobs, state and Metro Nashville leaders negotiated cash-for-jobs grants. The 2018 deal would be the last one negotiated with cash from Metro Nashville's coffers, following public outcry over growing pains from the region's sustained development boom. A $65 million state grant promised $13,000 per job, and Metro added another $3,000 per employee for a total of $15 million. The money depended on the hires being made within seven years. Amazon executed its grant with the state in 2021, giving it until 2029 to collect. The company has not yet sought Metro job-creation incentives.

Bridgestone, AllianceBernstein, Philips, UBS, Dell and Warner Music are among other companies who won incentives based on the number of local jobs they created.

Amazon did not claim a one-year extension offered to all state businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, "to help alleviate the impact of the pandemic," state Economic and Community Development officials said. Its deadline to hire 5,000 Nashville employees is Jan. 1, 2029.

Unlike other firms, Amazon capitalized on stay-at-home orders with express shipping and automated warehouses, and business boomed during the pandemic. The company has added more than $13 billion to Tennessee's economy in the past decade, and it's now the eighth-largest employer in Middle Tennessee.

This year, Amazon laid off 1.2% of its workforce in a reversal of the 2020 hiring spree that doubled the number of employees.

It's retooling its diverse and ever-changing services and products, recently launching a low-cost prescription-delivery for its Prime members and making a $3.9 billion bid to buy a chain of medical clinics. For $5 a month, RxPass delivers unlimited generic medications to subscribers.

Meanwhile, Amazon is among all major corporations experimenting with new strategies to entice workers to offices, said Janelle Gallagher, first vice president at CBRE Nashville.

Final Story of the Day (CDH)

This weekend seems like it has two big holidays packed into one with Super Bowl Sunday and the upcoming Valentine's holiday Tuesday.

That means there will be plenty to do over the next few days to celebrate.

Whether your team is in the big game or not this year, Super Bowl Sunday is always a fun time to gather with friends, eat good food and more.

For those who might not have a Super Bowl Party to go to this year, here are a few local Sunday events to take part in.

Harvest Share Food Pantry will host its annual Soup N Bowl fundraiser starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. The event will once again take place at The Memorial Building, 308 W. 7th St., and feature many soups provided by local chefs and restaurants. The event will also include both live and silent auctions.

The Tilted Mule, 102 Depot St., will host a "Superb Owl" party starting at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Watch the big game and see if you can catch a glimpse of the elusive owl.

Battleground South Cigar Lounge, 1020 S. Garden St., will also view the Super Bowl starting at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Fozzy's Bar & Grill, 150 Stephen P. Yokich Parkway, will not only play host to the big game this Sunday, but will offer prizes to attendees throughout the night. Prizes include a 55-inch flatscreen TV and four $50 Fozzy's gift cards. Email to make a reservation.

Celebrate the big day of romance a few days early this weekend with these pre-Valentine's Day events.

Historic Elm Springs, 2537 Park Plus Drive, will host a special Valentine's Dessert Party starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Guests will taste from an assortment of sweets, cakes and candies made by some of the county's finest local bakers. Tickets are $20 per person or two for $35.

Farmstead Cellar & Tasting Parlour, 803 S. Main St., will host wine and chocolate tasting from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Tuesday. Tickets are $39 and can be purchased by calling (931) 384-8056.

Create your own festive canvas Valentine's Day tote bag by visiting Riverside Antiques, 901 Riverside Drive, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday. Cost of the class is $25 per person. Call (931) 981-6061 to reserve your spot.

Grinder's Switch, 510 S. Garden St., will host a special Valentine's wine and cheese pairing event starting at 5 p.m. Sunday.


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