Today is Saturday, November 29, 2014

Looking out for MJ's north side

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MT. JULIET -- When District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice started the North Mt. Juliet Business (NMJB) Council, he got a much bigger response then he expected.

“The Chamber of Commerce got involved,” he said. “We joined forces – now we have 40 or more members.”

The group is all about making plans to improve business on the north end of Mt. Juliet. One member, Shiloh Music Co-Owner George Hedges, wants to revive the Mt. Juliet Bluegrass Festival.

“We could have it in business parking lots along Mt. Juliet Road,” Hedges told the members at the NMJB Council’s most recent meeting. After it adjourned, he continued talking to individual members of the group about forming a committee to plan the event.  

That’s how the monthly meetings at Courtney’s Restaurant often go – one person brings up an idea, the group talks about it and then people decide if they want to help make it happen.

The meetings on the third Thursday of each month, at 8 a.m., offer business people who want to promote their own businesses a chance to get together and share information and ideas, and help their neighbors as well.

They also get an hour with the listening ear of the man who represents their interests on the City Commission. Justice is there chairing the meetings and asking for ideas and opinions.

“I recognized a need for information,” Justice said. “I know business owners are creative. They think outside the box. I wanted to know what they want the district to look like. I wanted to have their input.”

So he started the council and called Mark Hinesley, president of the Mt. Juliet-West Wilson Chamber of Commerce – and the rest, as they say, is making history.

“We’ve been meeting since August, and I still see as much energy and excitement as ever,” Hinesley said. Plus, one other thing NMJB Council members have been doing is attending City and Planning Commission meetings to support the kinds of growth they want, Hinesley added.

For instance, “Nichols Vale will add about 500 roofs to North Mt. Juliet,” he said. “We’ve been very vocal in support of that.”

Hinesley also said the business owners are concerned about improving the appearance of their area.

“We can do more together than alone,” he said. “We want to work on beautification, green space, sidewalks and bike lanes in the area. We are already succeeding by enhancing buildings and parking areas.”

The Dragonfly Consignment Boutique Owner Carla Takacs, who was invited to join the group by the Chamber of Commerce, said she wants to help promote business in North Mt. Juliet.

“I want to make people aware that they need to come to this part of town,” she said. “Mt. Juliet has more to offer than just Providence.”

A project the group has completed is a glossy, full-color flyer which was handed out at the recent baseball tournaments. A map on one side shows all the things to do in “North Town Mt. Juliet,” and the other side has ads from members of the NMJB Council.

Sister’s Whimzy Boutique Co-Owner Marquita Hall said she thinks the flyer, which can also be used by council members themselves to inform their customers about the area, is proving very helpful. She appreciates the cooperative effort represented by the group.

“It’s important to us for North Mt. Juliet to be its best,” Hall said. “It helps me feel connected to go and hear what’s being said. I want to be part of the revitalization process.”

Wilson Bank & Trust is a member of the council as well. Gary Smith, assistant branch manager at the North Mt. Juliet Road office of the bank, also lives in North Mt. Juliet. He pointed out that “North Mt. Juliet is the original town, after all.”

Smith added that he hopes the NMJB Council can help attract more restaurants and retail businesses to the north side to “add symmetry to the town.”

Justice also tries to have speakers at the NMJB Council meetings who talk about issues that matter to businesses in the north end.

In June, that meant City Manager Kenny Martin gave an update on economic development in Mt. Juliet; Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Luffman reported on a proposal, now adopted, to expand the Fire Department by hiring six new firefighters and opening a second fire station in the center of town to serve the north end; and County Mayor Randall Hutto spoke about possible changes to ambulance service in the city.

Hutto said the county would be willing and happy to keep providing the city’s ambulance service. But he warned that if Mt. Juliet contracts with a private company for ambulance service and the county moves its emergency medical crews to other stations in the county, those communities may become attached to having ambulances and resist moving them back to Mt. Juliet if privatization doesn’t work out for the city.

In other words, guest speakers sometimes have some pretty significant things to say to the NMJB Council. The next meeting will be at 8 a.m., Thursday, July 17, at Courtney’s Restaurant. Anyone interested in the North Mt. Juliet business community is welcome to attend. Breakfast is Dutch treat.

Correspondent Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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