The Industrial Development Board of Maury County wants to develop 330 acres near General Motors as a corporate park, a significant and aggressive decision backed by the county commission chairman and county mayor.

The opportunity to attract high-paying jobs to the county led to negotiations with the nation’s largest automaker, which employs more than 3,750 at its Spring Hill Manufacturing Facility.

During the talks, the board obtained an option to purchase the property along U.S. Highway 31, south of the Rippavilla Plantation and north of Denning Lane.

“We believe this parcel of land is ideally suited and situated to bring us corporate jobs that will change the paradigm and raise the income levels of our residents,” Industrial Board Chairman Bobby Harris said. “While we still have capacity for additional manufacturing here, we want to vigorously pursue corporate recruiting, and this opportunity allows us to do that.”

The vision might lead to more jobs, higher salaries and improved tax revenues, Maury County Commission Chairman Michael Fulbright said.

“Every morning, we have a large number of Maury County residents who drive north on 31 right by this property, get on I-65 and head to Franklin, Nashville or Murfreesboro to work,” Fulbright said. “Having a place right here to attract good jobs gives our citizens the chance to find the high quality employment they’re looking for nearby, and will ultimately benefit every single one of us.”

Maury County Mayor Charlie Norman said the move was right for Maury County and hailed the possibly of high-income job creation.

“We want to provide more good-paying jobs for our people right here so they don’t have to leave the county and deal with the traffic to get to work,” Norman said. “Our jobs base is growing strong with a 2.6 percent unemployment rate, and we want to keep it that way.

“This opportunity will help us maintain that momentum,” he added. “This, and so many other key initiatives, wouldn’t be possible without the great partner we have in General Motors, and we appreciate their continued commitment to the people of Maury County.”

Harris points to the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Ala., as a model for the type of business and research park that the industrial board envisions taking place over time.

“The Cummings Research Park is one of the top two business parks in the nation,” Harris said, “and houses 300 companies and 29,000 employees.”

The GM land has been used for farming since the company acquired the land in the 1980s.

“If you draw a 10-mile circle with that property in the center of the circle, you’ll include some of the best-educated workforce in Tennessee,” Harris said. “Many of those people, some 25,000 of them, are having to drive right past this property and outside the area to go to work. We want to change that.”

Industrial Board Vice Chairman Jim Parks said the land was classified as surplus by GM. It had no definitive plans for the 300 acres except farming.

“Our board introduced to GM leadership a conceptual land use plan for the property, one that targets corporate jobs,” Parks said. “Matching that job base with one of middle Tennessee’s best piece of real estate offers us a competitive position within the dynamic, expanding Nashville region. It’s a win/win for all parties as evidenced by GM’s decision to grant this option to the [Industrial Board].”

Harris said diversification of the jobs base has been a long-standing goal of Maury County officials.

“We have conducted multiple studies over past years that have led to long-range economic development plans for the county,” Harris said. “But, we needed a large tract of land in the right location in order to attract the right types of companies, and now we have the chance to make that happen.”

The Industrial Board has been working with GM for several years on this parcel. It will engage the state, TVA and University of Tennessee to recruit “difference makers” to Maury County, Harris said.

“GM has given us an opportunity to pursue this vision,” he added.

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James Bennett is editor of The Daily Herald. His column is based on original reporting, old-school storytelling and original commentary on whatever catches his fancy or yours. He was a 2017 Tennessee Press Association first-place award winner for editorial writing and public service. Contact him at jbennett@c-dh.net.

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