As all of rural West Tennessee prepares for the official arrival of Ford Motor Company and SK Innovations at Blue Oval City, The Greater Jackson Chamber’s Kyle Spurgeon and Ryan Porter appeared before the Madison County Commission last week to give an update on how the county’s economic development team is preparing and positioning the county to benefit.
Porter, who is the chief operating officer for The Chamber, said results of a housing study they commissioned in June that looks at the county’s current population, housing inventory and projections based on current trends should arrive to The Chamber’s offices soon, and plans to present those findings in multiple public forums will be planned thereafter.
But while they wait for the report, The Chamber has accomplished a few things to that end no matter what the study says including developing a new website that recruits people to move to the county, meeting with various groups representing different parts of county’s infrastructure that will need development and a group of local leaders taking a trip to Greenville, S.C., to discuss what went right and wrong in the 1990s when BMW built a plant in their area 30 years ago.
“We’re doing this to have an idea of what we need to do, but we can’t really get into building it until we have a sense of where we need to invest the resources based on where people are willing to locate,” Porter said.
Spurgeon said everything going on in Madison County right now ties in together for this purpose. He mentioned how the improvement of JMCSS has helped The Chamber’s cause in recruiting people to the area.
“When I first started here, we had to try to hide our schools from some projects because the numbers were so bad,” Spurgeon said. “But now I can tell you that Ford and SK Innovations are seeking us out wanting to develop partnerships with the schools to build up their workforce because they see what is going on in our schools.
“And it’s not just Blue Oval City that’s looking at us. The entire world is looking at West Tennessee right now because of all the potential suppliers that will need to set up factories here. We’re probably doing a prospect visit a week, and that’s before Ford has really started choosing its suppliers, which will start to really happen in 2023.”
Spurgeon said as schools improve, more housing is needed. Current apartment complexes under construction help some, but single-family housing is what’s needed. And development has changed in recent years as the days of subdivisions are on the decline as people are looking for a place where they can live, work and play.
“They want to live in a place with greenspaces and walking trails nearby, and they can walk a short distance to have a cup of coffee in the morning and then walk another short distance that night for pizza and a beer,” Spurgeon said. “If what I’m describing sounds like Jackson Walk, that’s because that’s where development is going.
“And we probably need five or six more Jackson Walks in the county.”
Spurgeon mentioned things other communities have done that have put them in a better position, and one he pointed out was Millington, who’s developed multiuse areas within its neighborhoods to attract people to live there.
He said Millington has been able to fund that work partially by establishing TIF districts in town, tax increment financing in which local governments can pay for community improvements with future tax revenue.
“As we’re looking ahead, Madison County needs to be ready to provide a quality of life that will attract people to want to live, work and play here,” Spurgeon said. “What that looks like and how it happens, we still don’t know for sure.
“But we’re working hard to figure it out as soon as possible so we know what we need to do.”
Brandon Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org