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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 12, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Fire (MauryCountySource)

The American Red Cross is assisting a Maury County family that was displaced after their house caught on fire on Monday, according to the Maury County Fire Department.

Multiple fire crews responded to the house fire on Albert Matthew’s Road on Monday, Maury County Fire said.

Firefighters found fire showing from an attached garage with heavy smoke pouring from the rest of the home. Crews were able to cut off the fire’s extension into the living portion of the home.

The fire department says the family is being assisted by the American Red Cross.


Mersen to Expand (CDH)

Global graphite-producing giant Mersen, based in France, will revitalize the previous Union Carbide plant in Columbia, Tenn., investing an estimated $70 million in the area’s economy and bringing 100 new employees on board to the expanded operations.

Mersen, a global leader in electrical power and advanced materials, will operate at the 60-acre site over 800,000 square feet across 10 buildings off Santa Fe Pike set to produce 120 metric tons of graphite.

The plant once housed the operations of Union Carbide, dating back to the late 1990s, but most recently housed Graftech Advanced Graphite, which was recently bought by CRG LLC and then sold to Mersen in 2019.

Mersen, a $1.2 billion company, operates plants in 35 countries, including 10 in the U.S., employing 7,500 people.

Furthering graphite production is part of the company's strategic plan, starting isostatic graphite production, mainly for the semiconductor market, in Columbia.

The plant will be equipped to produce 4,000 tons of extruded graphite, 120 tons of insulation felt and 2,000 tons of isostatic graphite per year.

In another two years, Mersen will continue the expansion of the plant and operations, investing another projected $40 million, according to company officials. Veronica Hobbs, Columbia-based Merson Human Resources Director, said the plant has already expanded from 50 employees to 85 employees, attracting workers on the values of teamwork, collaboration and recruiting.

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tennessee, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception, said attracting the company to expand in Columbia was a top priority while he served as Maury County Mayor four years ago ahead of being elected to serve the 5th Congressional District after a tumultuous election.

"I had the privilege of being here at the beginning of this project," Ogles said to the crowd of over 100 attendees including elected officials, company representatives and workers.

He explained how the county and city and Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance helped to bring the company to Columbia, working diligently since before the pandemic, which temporarily stopped momentum on the project.

"This was a jewel in the rough," Ogles said. "They wanted to make it fit. They wanted to make it work. We are known as the mule capitol of the world. During WW I, we served the world in mules. We powered the world ... When you look at the electrification of North America and Europe and the world, Middle Tennessee and Columbia will once again be powering the world with this product."

Eric Guajioty, Mersen executive vice president of advanced materials, who is based in Paris, has flown to Columbia 36 times to oversee the transition of the sale of Mersen and to launch plant operations.

"This is a big adventure," Guajioty said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to revitalize this site, boost the local economy and bring jobs and people to bring life to this plant."

Mersen CEO Luc Themelin spoke more about the operations at the site, which is already in production.

"I'm very proud of what has been achieved at the Columbia site in the last four years in terms of redevelopment, investment, production start-up and more," Themelin said. "It is now a key site in our manufacturing base, bringing together production capacities for extruded graphite, isostatic graphite and insulating felts.

"We intend to continue investing to meet increased demand from sustainable development markets, particularly the Silicon Carbide semiconductor market."


Ridley Park Development Discussed (WKOM Audio 3:25)

Last night at the Columbia City Council meeting, citizens turned out to speak out against the large development that is being considered on Trotwood Avenue near Ridley Park. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the meeting and spoke with Columbia Vice Mayor Randy McBroom to learn more the issue and whether it may pass in the vote that will take place on Thursday…

KKK Flyers Posted (Press Release)

KKK recruitment flyers have been left at several African American churches in Columbia, says a local pastor.

Kenny Anderson, Sr., Pastor of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, told the news media early Tuesday morning that the hate flyers were left recently on the marquees of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Bethel Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Faith United Missionary Baptist Church.

The flyers say, "You have been paid another social visit by the Old Glory Knights of the Ku Klux Klan we have a dark history here and because of you a bright future! Be Warned. Race traitors, mixed breeds, communist, homosexuals, and all other walks of Godless degeneracy, the Klan is back again and here to stay, so you'd better make amends or stay away!!!"

An email address was included on the flyer.

Columbia Police released video Tuesday afternoon showing a suspect leaving a flyer containing "biased-based rhetoric" on a food truck. They're asking anyone who may know the person to contact police at (931) 388-2727.

Area pastors have scheduled a press conference for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church Annex Building, located at 901 South Glade Street, to address the issue. A prayer for unity will follow.

Mayor Chaz Molder issued the following statement on the matter:

"Our local law enforcement agencies are investigating this matter and working to confirm the source. At this time, we have no reason to believe this flier represents any type of coordinated activity other than a sickening isolated event. The words are hateful. Reprehensible. They do not reflect our community’s values. My heart hurts over this isolated incident and we will work to show the world that our community is one of love for all."


County Growth Trends (CDH)

The Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance recently shared its latest efforts in tracking and cultivating economic growth, which included input from several city and county boards.

Maury Alliance Vice President of Economic Development Travis Groth presented these latest efforts to Columbia City Council members in June, detailing the results of a recent “strike zone study,” which included a desired focus on job growth, higher wages and improvement of infrastructure.

The survey consists of input from various government boards in Columbia, Spring Hill, Mt. Pleasant and at the county level, each pinpointing its greatest needs to attain the best results.

“The purpose was to gain feedback on what a successful economic development project should look like going forward,” Groth said. “The community has had a period of growth that has been very productive, and we just want to make sure our efforts going forward align with our stakeholders, and the outcomes align with our stakeholders as well.”

The study began in late 2021 and lasted about a year, ending in December of 2022. Each board was submitted five open-ended questions, along with participants voting on specific scenarios to gain data with questions such as, “What are the top priorities?” Groth said.

Groth also highlighted a few areas in which Columbia’s results differed from its respective neighbors.

“The city council’s results differed a little bit from the combined results,” Groth said. “Generally, [Columbia] was a little more supportive of manufacturing projects, along with support of solar and green energy projects compared to the combined results. And much like the combined results, you ranked wages as the top priority, with a focus on job creation aligned with appropriate uses of utilities and infrastructure.”

Groth’s presentation also included an additional study to help monitor the county’s growth, which can also be considered a useful resource in recruiting stakeholders looking to invest.

The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) study is a new study the Maury Alliance hopes to track annually to help identify changes in growth over a 10-year period, including population, graduation rates, average annual income, employment rates, etc. The study not only tracks growth and progress over time, but can also be used to identify areas in need of improvement.

Groth said the benefit of having a KPI study is having a straightforward breakdown of the county’s key economic factors, which often consists of massive amounts of data that can be overwhelming to navigate.

“There is so much data out there, and you can get lost trying to figure out what we should look at,” Groth said. “To have an easy to digest dashboard, it’s looking at three main things, ‘Is the community growing, is it getting wealthier and is it educating and training the workforce it’s going to need?’ It’s looking at those indicators quickly as sort of a snapshot for whether things are changing that we need to take a deeper dive into to find additional information.”

The current KPI study, which Groth stresses is “very much a draft at this point,” can be viewed on the Maury Alliance website at www.MauryAlliance.com.

“The community does seem to be trending in a positive way no matter how you measure it,” Groth said. “The hope is to make this something that gets updated annually, and can be something we can show stakeholders to get their feedback as far as if these are the right indicators, and if there are any areas that may be lacking. So far the feedback has been pretty positive.”



CSCC Foundation Holds Awards Ceremony (Press Release)

The Columbia State Foundation recently hosted a luncheon in the Pryor Art Gallery where board members, alumni and the City of Columbia were recognized for their service to the college and community.

 

To begin, the luncheon honored board members whose terms ended. This included Foundation board chair Mike Alexander, who was awarded a plaque with the number ‘5776’ to represent the amount of students that graduated during the time he served.

Following this, the City of Columbia received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy. The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy was established in March of 2001 as a way of recognizing outstanding fundraising programs that donate their resources and efforts to Tennessee Board of Regents colleges. Honorees are selected through a Donor Recognition Committee comprised of representatives from Tennessee community and technical colleges, donors, Trustees, Regents and employees.

“The City of Columbia's involvement in the work and mission of Columbia State Community College will continue to equip students with opportunities for educational advancement and cultural enrichment,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “It is with great pleasure that I award the 2023 Chancellor’s Award for Philanthropy to the City of Columbia.”

The City's support in the renovation of the John W. Finney Memorial Library resulted in a welcoming space of more than 24,000 square feet. The City continues to show its support by assisting with funding for the construction of the Southern Regional Technology Center—a state-of-the-art facility that will be located on the Columbia Campus.

Chaz Molder, mayor of Columbia, accepted the award on behalf of the City of Columbia.

“We know the importance that this college has and we support it in every way that we possibly can,” Molder said. “It is so nice to receive this honor today because I think it’s a testament to the support that this college has received from the City.”

Sisters Lynda Crunk Potts and Vicki Crunk Cain each received the President’s Award of Honor for Distinguished Alumni.

Potts graduated from Columbia State in 1970 with an Associate of Science degree in English. She went on to become a pillar in the community, holding multiple community service positions and staying involved at Columbia State through the Alumni Board of Directors, the Foundation Board, the Lewisburg Site Steering Committee and by serving as the Alumni Board president and the Capital Campaign Committee Chairman for Annual Giving.

Cain graduated from Columbia State in 1971 with an Associate of Science degree in education. In addition to her various positions in the community, she kept close ties with Columbia State through the Alumni Association and by serving on fundraising committees for the Lewisburg Campus.

Together, the two accomplished businesswomen established the Calloway and Jean Crunk Endowed Scholarship in 2000 to honor their parents through the Columbia State Foundation. Since 2008, scholarships have been awarded to 49 distinct students. Keeping tradition, their children and grandchildren have followed in the sisters’ footsteps by attending Columbia State.

“Today we honor two alums who happen to be sisters and who have been noted for their support and promotion of Columbia State as they worked and contributed to the development of their community,” Smith said. “We are so proud of them as Columbia State graduates and are honored to have the opportunity to recognize them today as Distinguished Alums. Lynda Crunk Potts and Vicki Crunk Cain, both of them, through their own decisions and chosen paths, have demonstrated for students, alumni and community what can be accomplished with a Columbia State degree.”

The Columbia State Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports and partners with the college to positively impact student success and the communities in which it serves. For more information, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/Foundation.


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

Angela Dawn Lackey of Columbia, Tennessee and Business Analyst at Farm Bureau Health Plans for 21 years, died Wednesday, July 5, 2023. The funeral For Mrs. Lackey will be held on Wednesday, July 12 at 11:00am at First Presbyterian Church of Spring Hill. Burial will follow at 2:00 pm at Kirkland Cemetery in Taft, TN.


Mrs. Patricia Sewell Fitzgerald, 85, passed away Thursday, July 6, 2023 in Columbia.

Graveside services for Mrs. Fitzgerald will be conducted Saturday, July 15, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Sunset Hill Cemetery in the Theta Community. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Opioid Settlements (Tennessean)

Companies sued for their involvement in the pharmaceutical opioid trade will pay more than $50 billion in settlements to states and local governments in the coming years. KFF Health News has obtained detailed information on where more than $3 billion has been allocated.

This includes payments of more than $2 million to the Nashville-Davidson Metro government, the records show.

The non-profit news organization reported on documents it received from BrownGreer, a court-appointed firm administering the settlements. The amounts provided are down to the exact cent.

This report does not include all settlement payments, such as those not part of the national settlement agreement affiliated with BrownGreer. Some companies also made individual deals with the states that are not included in these lists.

These documents include payments from pharmaceutical distributors that settled jointly with states. It also includes payments from the pharmaceutical maker Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Tennessee has created an Opioid Abatement Council that also tracks many opioid settlement fund allocations and decides how much of that money should be spent.

Here's what we know about the KFF investigation:

The exact amount allocated to Nashville is $2,039,466.45, according to the KFF documents. Some other Tennessee city allocations include:

Murfreesboro: $140,935.15

Clarksville: $57,157.50

Mount Juliet: $13,117.02

Franklin: $24,752.16

Tennessee is expected to receive $600 million in such settlement funds over the next two decades. Nearly half of the money is controlled by the state's Opioid Abatement Council, another 15% is controlled by the state government and the remaining 39.5% is controlled by local governments.


Gas Prices (MainStreetMaury)

Tennessee gas prices are trending slightly higher this week, increasing three cents, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.10 which is five cents less expensive than one month ago and $1.20 less than one year ago.  

“Gas prices are trending higher after the Fourth of July holiday, likely due to higher demand alongside decreasing supply,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The good news is that oil prices still remain low. Unless that changes this week, the upward pressure on gas prices could possibly ease fairly soon.” 

Quick Facts

34% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.84 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.46 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 5th least expensive market in the nation


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Goo Goo Cluster, Nashville’s iconic candy brand, has announced the newest premium collaboration in the extensive confection line up, the Puckett’s Premium Goo Goo, available beginning Tuesday, July 18. In partnership with another local mainstay, Puckett’s Restaurant, the candy imitates Puckett’s infamous Deep Fried Brownie Sundae.

A decadent treat combining the flavors of two Nashville staples, the Puckett’s Premium Goo Goo features brownie, salted caramel, pecans, and spiced shortbread all covered in dark chocolate. The spiced ingredients are seasoned with Puckett’s signature BBQ Rub, giving the Premium a unique savory, yet sweet taste.

“The Puckett’s Premium Goo Goo is the first of our kind with the incorporation of a barbecue rub,” said Laurie Spradley, Vice President of Operations for Goo Goo Cluster. “We have created a delicious mix of sweet and savory with this confection, covered in rich dark chocolate and sprinkled with spiced pecans.”

Puckett’s Restaurant is a legendary Southern food and live music destination from A. Marshall Hospitality with six locations across Tennessee and a seventh in Cullman, Ala. Puckett’s remains a family-owned-and-operated concept that’s known for its local community ties, Southern hospitality and Memphis-style barbecue smoked low and slow over cherry wood, as well as the popular line of signature sauces, rubs, spices and marinades.

Launching July 18, with pre-order availability now, the Puckett’s Premium Goo Goo will be sold online at googoo.com, downtown at the Goo Goo Chocolate Co. and in all Puckett’s Restaurants. This collaboration will run through the end of September, while supplies last.

For more information about Goo Goo Cluster and its product line, visit googoo.com. To learn more about Andy Marshall and the A. Marshall Hospitality family, visit amarshallhospitality.com.


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