A recent emphasis on grants has secured millions of dollars for the city of Lebanon and Wilson County non-profit groups.
Lebanon grant coordinator Anthony Tate is the center of the resurgence in grant funding and has secured more than $4.7 million in grants in nearly three years with the city.
Tate, a 1993 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, said entrepreneurial spirit flourished in college.
“First, I wanted to be a teacher, then I fell in love with business. During college, I ended up getting my degree in history, but I always had some kind of side business because I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he said.
Tate said he owned 11 businesses from 1989 to 2001, including a greeting card company and a groundskeeping business. He then started Tate Commercial Services and Tate Commercial Enterprises.
He received the 2010 R.H. Boyd Minority Business of the Year from the Nashville Minority Business Center and said the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis led to his business’ closure.
Tate said he contacted a friend to see if there were employment opportunities with the City of Hendersonville and the friend mentioned a position as a grant writer.
“He said, ‘I know you’ve wrote at least $10 (million)-$12 million worth of responses. It’s just technical writing. I know you know how to do that,’” said Tate, who said he was reluctant because he had never done grant writing work.
Hendersonville hired Tate as a contracted grant writer, and he said he secured about $1 million in his first year. Tate said he took a position with the city’s public works department because of the city’s financial structure.
Tate recalled one rainy afternoon where he was picking up trash and was having trouble putting trash into the bag because of the wind.
“I looked up and said, ‘God, you sure are funny.’ Two years before, I was speaking to 300 people about success and how to do things in business,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s OK. I know what you’re doing. I know the story of Job, and this is just a part of the journey.’ ”
Impact on Lebanon
Tate worked for Hendersonville for three years while his wife, whom he married in 1993, built her work experience. Once she secured a suitable position, Tate looked to return to a different career.
“I just looked on the internet and put ‘grant writer,’ and this job popped up,” he said.
Tate went through a phone interview with Lebanon’s Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle on a Thursday, and an in-person interview with then-mayor Bernie Ash and Lebanon Finance Director Stuart Lawson on a Friday.
“They sent me an offer letter that following Monday,” Tate said.
A grant writer position is not uncommon for municipalities, and in some cities, department heads or managers will absorb grant writing duties. In Mt. Juliet, City Manager Kenny Martin handles grant writing responsibilities.
Tate has helped secure grants for infrastructure and other projects, as well as funding for local nonprofits.
“There’s only so many grants you can do for the city. I was running across a lot of grants that can be used for nonprofits around here in Lebanon and Wilson County. I asked (Ash) if it would be alright if I worked with some of these nonprofits and he said he thought it was a great idea,” said Tate, who has continued the work under Mayor Rick Bell.
“Anthony’s been a great asset to the city. I’ve watched him every day from across the hall. He’s working on grants all the time,” Bell said. “He’s brought in a ton of money that we wouldn’t have had. It’s good for us because the grant money was going to be spent somewhere, and it might as well be with us.”
Tate has secured about $1 million in grants for local nonprofits such as Pickett Chapel, Compassionate Hands and the Fite-Fessenden House. He recently secured a $761,000 grant for Compassionate Hands.
Wilson County Commissioner Sonja Robinson, who serves as director of the Cedar Seniors Center, said Tate has helped her understand and apply for grants for the center, which heavily relies on donations and grant funding.
“Upon meeting Anthony, I was very impressed at his knowledge of grants plus being so willing to work with me since I know how busy he is,” Robinson said. “My several meetings with Anthony were truly above any expectation that I could ever imagine – a true blessing he has been to work with and his excellent guidance in how to make a grant a success.”
Tate uses a teaching approach for people seeking grant information. Robinson said some weeks she met with Tate up to three times about the grant.
“It’s like he was a teacher,” Robinson said.
Tate credited the work of Bell, Special Projects Administrator RT Baldwin, Mayoral Assistant Debbie Jessen, Planning Director Paul Corder and Jennifer Trammel of the mayor’s office for the success of the grant program.
“The people that I work with around here are really talented people,” said Tate who described his role as being similar to a project manager. “When I speak about grant writing, I say it’s a team sport. People think grant writing is done by a writer who can write and all, but it’s not. You’re collecting information and then you put together a whole packet of information.”
Tate especially praised the work of Jessen and Trammel, whom he said has inspired ideas about how to secure grants or organization.
“I have a lot of smart people around me. Whoever I work with, it’s never me over them or them over me. It’s like a book or something. It doesn’t matter who writes it or how it all comes together, but we need the best product to leave this building,” he said. “That’s how we win.”