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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 16, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Strike Update (CDH)

International United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain didn't announce any new strikes taking place on Friday, including the largest General Motors plant in North America in Spring Hill, but said a new strategy will be implemented.

That strategy could mean an unannounced walk out in Spring Hill in the coming weeks.

A surprise call to strike in Kentucky highlighted the fourth week of the UAW strike, and during the Friday livestream update, Fain said going forward, this surprise action would be the new normal.

"We are entering a new phase of this fight, and it demands a new approach. We are done waiting until Fridays to announce the expansion of our strike," he told tens of thousands of viewers across YouTube, Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter.

Fain spoke of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis becoming complacent in negotiations, waiting until the Friday livestream update to bring credible deals to the negotiation table. Ford has already stiffened its bargaining capacity after raising wages up to 23%, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Going forward, little forewarning will come before a plant goes on strike, Fain said.

"Not just Fridays, not just Ford," he said.

Spring Hill's UAW Local 1853 President John Rutherford said the climate locally has been one of "anticipation," but no action will be taken immediately. 

Fain's Friday announcement means Spring Hill could join the fight at any time, Rutherford said.

On Sept. 22, Fain told members of the UAW in the Spring Hill plant – GM's largest plant in North America – to wait to join the "Stand up and Strike" strike. But in his messages since, Spring Hill has not been specifically mentioned.

"It sounds like he's done playing the slow game and ready to ramp things up," Rutherford said. "It can be any day now, any plant. It's nice to see that the men and women up north are playing chess instead of checkers now.

"It will be a roller coaster every day, instead of just on Fridays now. I'm hoping we can get a little heads up so we can get the word out there if it were to happen."

Rutherford added that while Spring Hill is yet to be called on to strike, many of the local workers have pitched in to visit the picket lines in areas like Memphis, which shut down during the strike's second week.

"We've got plans in motion to bring a group to go support Kentucky this week or next weekend," Rutherford said. "The Kentucky plant is one of the largest with more than 9,200 workers, and so they can use all the help they can get."

UAW Benefits Rep. Mike Miller, who has experience in many UAW strikes during his career, called the latest one "one of the most unique of them all, but I kind of like that it's that way."

"This has been a very unique way of negotiations, and I like the way President Fain is going with it, and I believe he's going to get us a good contract. That's what we are all waiting on," Miller said. "My family is a GM family … and everything we do in the UAW is all intertwined. I thought we would go the first week."

A strike has been much-speculated in Spring Hill after a reported 25,000 autoworkers of the union's 150,000 members took up signs, officially walking out of GM, Ford and Stellantis plants across 21 states in the last month.

More than 3,000 United Auto Workers members are employed at the Spring Hill plant and are producing hundreds of vehicles per day under the expired contract.

It has been a month since workers across 21 states and 42 General Motors, Ford and Stellantis facilities are on the picket lines striking for a better contract.

After the first week of the strike, 38 plants were called to join the strike in week two. Fain called for workers at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago and GM's Lansing Delta Township plant to walk out. And on Wednesday night, Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, with an estimated 9,000 more workers, joined the picket lines.

Fain asked all UAW members and supporters to find one of many UAW strike lines on Saturday to picket and offer support for their fight.

"We are here to address decades of unfair treatment of autoworkers," Fain said. "Bring them food, music and solidarity."

During Friday morning's livestream, Fain also addressed criticism for raising UAW members' expectations.

"Our broken economy is what's raising our members' expectations. Our members are right to be angry. Corporate America rebounded after the Great Recession," he said. "Meanwhile, the working class has kept going backwards."


Arts and Prosperity Grant (Press Release)

Every day, nonprofit arts and culture organizations across the United States contribute to the vitality of communities fostering creativity, celebrating diversity, and bringing joy to residents. The recently released Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) study demonstrates that investing in this sector is not only an investment in cultural enrichment but also in economic growth and community well-being. In the City of Columbia, the arts and culture sector generated $6.1 million in economic activity during 2022. This included $2.6 million in spending by arts and culture organizations and an additional $3.5 million in event-related expenditures by their audiences according to the AEP6 report. This economic activity supported 100 jobs, provided $3.4 million in personal income to residents, and generated $973,986 in tax revenue to local, state, and federal governments.


AEP6, an in-depth economic and social impact study of the nation's nonprofit arts and culture industry, showcased remarkable results. The study includes 373 regions across all 50 states, ranging from rural to large urban communities. Nationally, in 2022, the arts and culture industry sector generated a staggering $151.7 billion in economic activity. This included $73.3 billion in spending by arts and culture organizations and an additional $78.4 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This economic activity supported 2.6 million jobs, provided $101 billion in personal income to residents, and generated $29.1 billion in tax revenue to local, state, and federal governments. For Columbia’s role in the study, the Columbia Arts Council spearheaded all survey data collection efforts for more than a year, attending local arts-related events to gather completed surveys from event attendees.


Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder stated, "The Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 study demonstrates that the arts are a driving force behind our city's economic growth and community pride. We’re grateful to our Arts Council members who played an important role in this national study. Columbia is enriched by a vibrant arts and culture scene, and this study underscores the importance of continuing to invest in and support this industry. The arts play a pivotal role in making Columbia a wonderful place to live, work, and visit."


The study highlighted the vital role arts and culture play in building livable communities, acting as catalysts for entrepreneurship, and enhancing nighttime economies. Additionally, the AEP6 study expanded beyond economic data to include social impact measurements, revealing that 89% of attendees reported that the events they attended inspired a sense of pride in their neighborhood or community, while 86% stated they would feel a great sense of loss if the activity or venue were no longer available.


Arts and culture strengthen the visitor economy. In the City of Columbia, 48.1% of attendees are nonlocal visitors who traveled from outside Maury County who spend an average of $23.98. Additionally, 90.2% of nonlocal attendees reported that the primary purpose of their visit was specifically to attend the performance, event, exhibit, venue, or facility where they were surveyed. The study also emphasized the importance of equitable funding for arts and culture organizations, highlighting that proportional economic and community impacts were observed regardless of an organization's racial or ethnic composition.

In conclusion, the AEP6 study reaffirms that investing in the arts and culture sector is an investment in the economic vitality and well-being of communities. By supporting this industry, leaders are creating more livable, inclusive, and vibrant environments for residents and visitors alike.


For more information on the AEP6 study, please visit ColumbiaArtsCouncil.com.


County and GM Negotiating Deal (CDH)

A proposal to terminate a decades-long tax incentive contract with General Motors to make way for an updated contract failed in the Maury County Budget Committee meeting last week.

The proposal recommended by the county's Industrial Development Board failed by a split vote of the budget committee. If passed, the proposed resolution would terminate the PILOT (or, Pay In Lieu of Taxes) contract between the county and GM, which allows a 60% tax abatement. The agreement has been in place since 1985. A new deal, based on the plant's expansion, would then be pursued.

"GM has negotiated a new PILOT with the IDB additionally a new PILOT has been negotiated with ULTIUM on the GM campus; and WHEREAS, the old PILOT must be terminated which has been recommended by the IDB," the resolution states.

The full commission will consider the resolution at its regular meeting on Monday night.

The item sparked tense debate among budget committee members last week.

When budget committee chairman Tommy Wolaver, District 10, made a motion to allow Jim Parks, past chairman of the IDB to speak before the committee before the vote, commissioner Eric Previti (standing in for committee member Gwynne Evans), District 2, objected to the action.

Previti explained that the action would violate Robert's Rules of Order by allowing a nonmember of the IDB to speak on the issue when the IDB had already made a recommendation on the contract.

However, after a few roll call votes deciding whether to allow Wolaver to suspend the rules to allow Parks to speak, the majority of committee members sided with Wolaver and ultimately allowed Parks to address the committee.

Parks argued that the commission should pursue a "fixed payment" with the auto giant and study its square footage.

When asked for his opinion, county attorney Daniel Murphy stated that if the budget committee voted against terminating the existing contract, they could face a potential lawsuit from GM since both the IDB and GM have been in negotiations for a year, reaching an agreement.

Existing IDB chairman Stewart Parker addressed the issue by video conference, emphasizing that the county commission in 2020 had voted on terminating the contact, thus setting the foundation for the deal. Parker said the IDB is abiding by the 2020 commission's wishes.


CSCC Career Fair (CDH)

Columbia State Community College recently hosted a college fair for Maury County high school students. 

Over 30 colleges and universities were represented at the event, including Columbia State, Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, Austin Peay State University and UT Southern.

"Columbia State has been the proud host of the Maury County College Fair for many years now,” said Crystal Creekmore, Columbia State assistant director of admissions and recruitment. “The College Fair provides juniors and seniors access to meet with representatives from more than 30 different institutions.”

The event is held every year for approximately 1,000 Maury County high school students to meet colleges and universities from the region and help them visualize their future.

“The Maury County College Fair is a fun way for the 11th and 12th grade students of Maury County to meet representatives from colleges, universities, TCATs, and branches of the U.S. Military,” said Emily Frisch, Columbia State enrollment recruiter.

“There was also a Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation representative to share about Tennessee’s scholarship opportunities. It was exciting to be part of helping provide this opportunity for students as they think about their next steps. We look forward to hosting the fair again next year.”


First Farmers Hires New Information Security Head (CDH)

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation (OTC Pink: FFMH), the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, announced last week that Ernest Anye, DIT, CISSP, has joined the bank as its Information Security Officer.

“We are pleased to announce that Ernest Anye joined our bank in the newly created role of Information Security Officer,” stated Brian K. Williams, First Farmers’ Chairman and CEO.

“His extensive experience in information technology and cybersecurity will enhance our information security strategies in conjunction with our Information Technology team, bank regulators and other industry-relevant security standards. In this new role, he is responsible for planning, implementing and maintaining information security measures to safeguard the bank’s corporate and customer information.  In addition, he is charged with strengthening our ability to manage the ever-evolving cyber security risks that are targeted at financial institutions.”

Anye holds a Doctorate in Information Technology and is Certified in Information Systems Security (CISSP). 

His experience includes IT security controls, software development, IT compliance, risk assessment and telecommunications.  He has a solid record of implementing robust strategies to drive enhanced process improvement, expertise in network and systems security, risk management, incident response, disaster recovery and vulnerability assessment.

Prior to joining First Farmers, Anye led initiatives for information security, risk analysis, incident response and vulnerability assessment for University of Missouri Healthcare. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor in Information Technology at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Anye is a graduate of Grambling State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He received his Doctor of Information Technology and Master of Science in Information Technology from Walden University. 

He is a member of the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) and Information Audit and Control Association (ISACA).


Duck River Jam (Press Release)

Duck River Jam, a community event intended to raise awareness and funds to fight a proposed landfill along the Duck River, will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Cherry Theater at Columbia State Community College.

 

The event, which will feature performances by local musicians as well as a silent auction, is being organized by the concerned citizens' group Protect the Duck River. 

 

The group has advocated against plans by Louisiana-based Trinity Business Group to build a 1,300-acre trash disposal complex as close as 1,000 feet from the Duck River at a former Monsanto phosphate processing site in Maury County. The property contains multiple Superfund sites and is mandated for EPA rehabilitation because of hazardous waste contamination. 

 

Protect the Duck River was previously involved in successful efforts to convince state lawmakers to pass legislation designating that segment of the Duck River as a Class II scenic river. In April, Gov. Bill Lee signed the new law requiring certain water resource projects to be permitted.

 

Trinity Group filed a lawsuit in May appealing the Maury-Marshall Solid Waste Regional Planning Board's rejection of its landfill application. Funds raised at the Duck River Jam will help defray legal fees for opponents of that appeal. 

 

"The Duck River is the most biologically diverse river in North America as well as the source of drinking water for more than 300,000 people in this community," said Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder. "The Duck River Jam is an opportunity for Middle Tennessee residents to support this precious, fragile resource while enjoying a great day of music and fun." 

 

For more information about Duck River Jam or to purchase tickets, please visit duckriverjam.com.



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

Mr. William Royal Dickson, Sr., 88, retired maintenance supervisor for Monsanto, died Saturday, October 14, 2023, at his residence in Columbia. Funeral services for Mr. Dickson will be conducted Wednesday at 2:00 P.M. at First Family Baptist. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 11:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Patrick John “PJ” Carson, 43, passed away at home on Friday, October 13, 2023. Funeral services for Mr. Carson will be held Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mrs. Martha Kinzer Lord, 81, passed away October 12, 2023 after a long illness. A memorial service for Mrs. Lord will be conducted Sunday, October 22, 2023 at 3:00 P.M at Williamsport United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Williamsport Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Sunday from 2:00 P.M. until the time of service at the Church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Zoo Tiger to Give Birth (Tennessean)

A Sumatran tiger named Anne is expecting cubs in the weeks to come at the Nashville Zoo.

The subspecies is critically endangered, with only an estimated 400-600 Sumatran tigers left in the world. Heather Schwartz, the director of veterinary services for the zoo, said zoo staff has been able to see three skeletal systems via radiograph and two cubs through ultrasounds. A third cub is likely just out of view on the ultrasound.

Zoo staff believe Anne is due anywhere between Oct. 13-30. The pregnancy is the first for Anne, who was born in January 2016 at the San Diego Zoo and came to Nashville in December.

Sumatran tigers gestate for around 100 days. Anne and the father, Felix, were only in the same enclosure for a week, so the zoo team was pleasantly surprised when they realized she was pregnant. They confirmed she was carrying cubs in late August.

Felix, who is 6 years old, is currently on exhibit at the zoo, where he's been since January 2021. Anne now spends her time behind the scenes as she nears birth.

Anne's primary keeper, Sherry Currans, worked to train her to come into a pen that has metal bars to separate staff from the tiger, lie down and allow the vet to press a long ultrasound wand covered in lubricant against her belly.

The team used target training to prepare Anne for her procedures. The method included teaching her to touch a pole, with positive reinforcement like food as a reward. The pole was then used to guide Anne through the process of entering the space where she'd have procedures done and to lie down.

The staff trained Anne over the course of several weeks, also working with a "dummy" ultrasound wand to get her comfortable with it in time for the actual procedure.

"She's super smart," Currans said. "She picks up things really quickly."

The team had a steady supply of meat and goat milk (Anne's favorite treats) to keep her motivated on Tuesday. She was free to go in and out of the pen anytime she wanted and was not sedated or restrained in any way. She expressed her displeasure at times by letting out a few bone-rattling roars, along with hisses and growls, and wandered in and out of the area several times.

Ultimately, she cooperated long enough for the team to complete a successful ultrasound.

Schwartz and her team were looking for skin and organ development along with the size of each cub's chest in the scan, which is the last they plan to conduct before the birth.

Schwartz was able to detect two strong heart beats on the scan and see their heads were facing the right direction. However, she said the third cub was likely on Anne's other side, out of her reach.

She said everything looked to be on track for the birth.

"That's what I wanted to see," Schwartz said. "Good heart rates, good movement and mom being active. Those are all we can ask for."

The zoo staff has a den set up for Anne to give birth and tend to her cubs. The zoo hopes to offer a live video feed of the cubs after they arrive.

Like any pregnancy, the risk for complications is present. The team has plans in place in case Anne or the cubs need intervention or extra care before, during or after birth. For example, in some cases, tiger cubs need to be hand-raised by staff if the mother does not accept them.

Ideally, the cubs will grow up at the zoo with their mother and eventually be outside in their enclosure for the public to see.

Learn more about the Nashville Zoo’s preservation initiatives at www.nashvillezoo.org.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens has announced that its annual Holiday LIGHTS festivities will return on Nov. 18.

LIGHTS will run through Jan. 7, and tickets go on sale Oct. 16.

More than one million lights will be on display throughout the grounds. 

“This year’s Holiday LIGHTS is brighter than ever,” Cheekwood President and CEO Jane MacLeod said in a release.

“Each year we add a little something new, while still offering the traditional displays our guests have come to know and love. An equally festive experience awaits guests inside the historic Mansion where this year’s theme of candy canes and gingerbread will bring cheer to visitors of all ages.”

Learn more at www.cheekwood.org.


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