Reflections on changing times were shared with hope for the future at the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Banquet on Monday night.
"We've heard enough of the gloom and doom," Lewisburg Industrial Development Director Greg Lowe said at the headquarters of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.
"We've felt it hard here," said Lowe, acknowledging that a 15.5 percent unemployment rate - down from a high of 20.3 percent - is "unacceptable," however, "Our largest employers have hired more."
Promoted by now-retired City Manager Eddie Fuller, the city's new developer pledged attention to the community's established businessmen and women because of a long-proved maxim, "Business retention and expansion is important for more" jobs.
Meanwhile, "We're getting more looks on the state level" for business that might move here, Lowe said, reporting one of County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett's recent contributions. It's a tag line for Lowe and his sales pitch: "Get Centered" here between the "Auto Alley" of vehicle construction in the Sun Belt, and the Gulf of Mexico where imports and exports are received and sent.
Lowe spoke after Mike Wiles, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board. Both were introduced by Eric Michael, the continuing president of the Chamber of Commerce whose professional approach at Michael Wealth Management is, he said, to be applied to Chamber operations.
"We're very excited about next year," Michael said, explaining he wants to visit the businesses in Marshall County and find out what leaders of those enterprises want from the Chamber.
Michael also wants to "team up with Columbia State Community College" to get new data on the economic lay of the land here and beyond the six surrounding counties, a territory that's been the horizon of previous economic data, the Chamber president said.
"We want to revitalize our community," he continued, and provide ideas to local leaders.
"Mike Wiles is really working hard to bring business to our community," Michael said while introducing the JECDB executive.
Wiles reviewed the drop in sales tax revenue when International Comfort Products closed its HVAC factory here.
"We lost a lot of suppliers for ICP," he said, but sales tax revenue rebounded after Wal-Mart opened, followed by another decline after Sanford's pencil factory closed.
Since then, there have been five months of increasing sales tax revenue, he said.
"It's bee a couple of tough years," Wiles said. "We survived the Inter City times.
"I think we will survive this as well."