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Wilson employment rising to pre-recession level

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Local employment was at its highest in 2007 when 34,763 people worked in Wilson County. Local employers must hire an additional 746 people to return to the 2007 employment level.


According to the August unemployment report released Thursday, Wilson Countys rate was 6.9 percent, sixth-lowest in the state. Wilson assuredly has many local residents working outside the county and of the total workforce of 61,560 there were 4,260 unemployed in August 2012.


One industry that has seen job numbers decline is manufacturing, which has dropped from the highest employment industry in Wilson County in 2001 to the fifth-largest in 2011.


Dr. Max Melnikov, assistant professor of Economics and Finance at Cumberland University, said that trend can be seen all across the nation. Melnikov said the United States has been shifting its economy from one of the top manufacturing economies in the world to more of a services economy.


"The gradual change to a 75 percent services, 25 percent manufacturing economy nowadays started in the U.S. in the 1970s, Melnikov said. Tennessee and Wilson County in particular followed the trend in the 90s.


In 2011, only 5,852 people worked in Wilson County in what were defined as Goods Producing industries. The number of people employed here in manufacturing jobs totaled only 3,931. Looking back 10 years ago, manufacturing was the largest area of employment in Wilson County with 6,740 people employed in that industry.


In the past several years, Dell closed its doors in 2009, Toshiba shipped its manufacturing jobs elsewhere and most recently, officials with Samsonite, new owners of Hartmann Luggage, announced they would be closing the Lebanon facility.


Melnikov said there is little the county can do to reverse the trend of a shrinking manufacturing industry and noted communities nationwide are coping with the same reality.


I honestly do not think there is a way or sense in combatting this change. It is a natural and logical process of deep structural changes in the post-industrial U.S. economy in the 21st century, he said.


However, many manufacturers have stayed and Wilson County has even welcomed new businesses to the community.


TRW Automotive employs around 500 workers and celebrated its 50th anniversary in Lebanon last year. Genco ATC electronics refurbishment moved into the Dell facility on Eastgate Boulevard in 2009 and also employs about 500 workers. Lochinvar remains one of the leading manufacturing employers in the county and many smaller manufacturers still hold a presence here.


Were still fairly heavy in manufacturing for being close to a metropolitan area, said G.C. Hixson, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County.


Hixson said education will be a key component in keeping and bringing industrial jobs here as a skilled and trained workforce goes a long way in recruiting companies.


We need to train our folks in career technical schools and have those necessary skills because that helps recruitment, he said. Skills will drive those industries and it makes it a lot easier to bring a company here.



Service producing jobs on the rise


While Wilson Countys manufacturing jobs have been on a steady decline in the past decade, many other industries are growing locally including a large retail industry and an increase in transportation and distribution.


From 2006 to 2007, the number of Service Producing jobs jumped significantly from 20,215 to 22,552 and reached 23,834 in 2011.


During the recession, Service Producing jobs fell from 22,734 in 2008 to 22,604 in 2009, but rebounded to 23,356 in 2010.


Retail jobs have more than doubled in the past 10 years and reached a high-point last year with 6,220 workers employed in the Retail Trade industry. In 2001, only 2,894 people were employed in that industry.


A 36 percent Goods Producing job loss in Wilson County between 2001 and 2011 is easily offset by the 57 percent increase in the services sector, Melnikov said. This is definitely good news for the Wilson community because the overall changes in total employment in the county was positive.


Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin, who was the director of economic development with the city prior to 2011, said the city has been targeting retail businesses for years to grow its economy and continues to do so.


Martin said the Providence MarketPlace shopping center, which opened in 2005, made a huge impact on the number of people employed in Mt. Juliet and Wilson County as a whole. Wilson County added 1,668 retail jobs from 2005 to 2007.


There are probably at least 1,000 people employed in the Providence area now, Martin said, emphasizing the at least.


Mt. Juliet is not a major center in the county for manufacturing or Goods Producing jobs, but Martin said the city has about 15 industrial employers in the city. Martin added that Mt. Juliets economic recruitment plan includes focusing on bringing in more retail and corporate offices.


Were still going after some industrial, but our major focus is the Class-A corporate offices, and of course, still looking for more retail, he said.


In Lebanon, the development of the Cumberland Center off Interstate 40 and Highway 231 is a strong point for Mayor Philip Craighead to bring in new jobs for the city. His proposal to establish an entertainment district there was voted down by the City Council earlier this year, but developer Vastland Realty Group is continuing to move forward.


Craighead pointed out Logans Roadhouse is expected to open at the Cumberland Center location in December and RCC Western Store is preparing to build. He said those two along could produce around 150 jobs.


He noted other developments including the Hamilton Springs transit-oriented development on Highway 70, the Lebanon Marketplace going up around the new Wilson County Motors site on Hartmann Drive and others show the city is in good shape to add jobs for the future.


We have a lot of opportunities for growth, he said. A lot of it depends on rooftops, and stores will want to tap into those markets.


Craighead said the city needs an economic recruiter to focus on bringing jobs into Lebanon and added he hopes to gain support on the idea after the election. He said while businesses are looking for locations to establish a storefront in the next two years, an economic recruiter would go a long way to helping them decide on Lebanon.


Its time for us to do it and I hope we can get the support with the new council, Craighead said of an economic recruiter.


In addition to retail, since 2001, the Trade, Transportation and Utilities industry has become the top employer in Wilson County thanks to many businesses locating here.


In 2001, the Trade, Transportation and Utilities industry, which had 5,531 jobs at that time, was the second-largest in the county behind manufacturing.


Trade, Transportation and Utilities jobs surpassed manufacturing in 2005, when there were 6,957 jobs in that industry compared to 6,628 jobs in manufacturing. The trade, transportation and utilities industry has risen to be Wilsons largest with 10,009 people employed in that industry in 2011.


Wilson County has seen several companies move into the community, creating jobs and boosting its transportation and distribution industry.


Online retailer Amazon is building in Lebanon and is expected to employ around 500 workers when its distribution facility is completed. Nissan moved a parts distributing facility to Lebanon in 2010 and employs around 150 workers. CVA Logistics on Eastgate Boulevard employs 450 workers in the industry.


In addition to the Service Producing jobs, more individuals are employed in local governments, which officials said is an obvious side effect of the countys overall growth. In 2011, there were 4,331 people employed in local governments compared to 3,165 in 2001. Also, the Leisure and Hospitality industry has added 1,673 jobs in the past 10 years.


Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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