Wilson County Promotions presented Tony Bates with the 2016 Mike Baker Friend and Supporter of the Fair Award prior to the Oak Ridge Boys concert on Tuesday night at the Wilson County Fair.
The annual award recognizes business professionals in Wilson County who have gone above and beyond in their support of the annual fair. The award is given in memory of Mike Baker, longtime chairman of the fair's Great Give-A-Way Committee.
Bates is the owner of Bates Ford and Tony Bates Equipment. A 1982 graduate of Mt. Juliet High School, he has worked in the automotive industry all of his life, beginning at his father's Nashville tire business, B&F Tire Company, and later at his uncle's gas station, Melvin's Texaco in Mt. Juliet. In 1988, he began selling automobiles at Jim Reed Chevrolet in Nashville. He was successful and named "Salesman of the Month" in his second month on the job. In 1990, he accepted the position of used car manager at Burchett Ford in Lebanon. He was a trusted employee of Glenn Burchett, another Mike Baker Award recipient, and in 1994, he became partner and general manager of the business. In 2007, Bates bought out Burchett's interest, and in 2009, the dealership was renamed Bates Ford.
Bates expanded his business in 2013 with the addition of Tony Bates Equipment, a Mahindra and Massey Ferguson Tractor dealership with locations in Lebanon and Murfreesboro. Bates employs over 75 people in Wilson and Rutherford counties.
Bates has been an active supporter of the Wilson County Fair, and his Ford dealership has been a sponsor of the Great Give-A-Way since its inception over 30 years ago. In 2008, Bates became the primary sponsor of the country and gospel music concerts at the fair. He said he supports the fair in order to give back to the community.
"I'm in business because of the community," he said. "It's my responsibility to give back."
In addition to his support of the Wilson County Fair, Bates strongly supports Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry in Lebanon. Joseph's Storehouse is a faith-based food ministry that provides assistance to approximately 500 Wilson County families each month in addition to providing assistance to other non-profit agencies. The organization distributes over $100,000 worth of food, toiletries and household items monthly to low-income, disabled and elderly individuals.
Bates and his wife Kim, a Mt. Juliet native, have three children, Laura, Nikki and Tyler. All three children are graduates of Wilson Central High School.