Construction continues Aug. 8, 2012, on the new 75,000-square foot building housing Academy Sports & Outdoors in Smyrna, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Willard)
When Dow Smith opened his family owned construction firm 20 years ago on Lowry Street, Smyrna was considered a sleepy mid-south town with less than a 15,000 population.
Today, government officials project Smyrna with having more than 45,000 residents in Rutherford County, one of Tennessee’s fastest growing counties.
Twenty years later, Smith acknowledges there’s been a boom in retail and construction growth, not the least of which was landing StoneCrest Medical Center last decade.
The hospital treats patients from throughout Middle Tennessee and employs more than 400 highly trained medical professionals.
“Smyrna today does not resemble a small town, especially since StoneCrest and Nissan Automotive Manufacturing have directly and indirectly triggered substantial business and residential growth throughout the north end of Rutherford County,” Smith said.
“We’re celebrating our 20th year of opening our firm in Smyrna,” he added. “Coming to Smyrna is one of the best decisions our company has made.”
“Presently, we’re nearing completion on a 15,000-square foot building for Smyrna Parkway Baptist Church on Lee Victory Parkway … a $1.8 million project,” Smith shared. “The grand opening of Parkway Baptist’s new sanctuary is slated very soon, with a dedication coming sometime in September. On this project, counting subcontractors, we’ve worked an estimated 200 professional construction people during the construction cycle since pouring the foundation in February.”
Parkway is a relatively new church, with an estimated 400 congregation.
Nearby La Vergne is also experiencing economic growth.
“We’re currently constructing a 10,000-square foot expansion for the Package Fulfillment plant on Heil-Quacker Drive in La Vergne,” Smith accounted. “That expansion allows for increased packaging and storage space by the company.”
An estimated 30 new jobs came to Smyrna with the recent opening of Uncle Bud’s Catfish Shack at 900 Grammer Lane, across the street from the International House of Pancakes and near Malco’s large cinema complex just off Sam Ridley Parkway.
“As we speak, we have 27 employees since opening our doors on June 27,” Uncle Bud’s General Manager Jonathan Morris confirmed. “We like the business climate that we’ve found in Smyrna, and we’re excited to be opening a new Uncle Bud’s within two months in Murfreesboro.”
Uncle Bud’s is a locally owned chain with restaurants in Nolensville and Nashville, featuring catfish, alligator, gumbo, shrimp and oysters.
“We’re with the ROMEOs (retired old men eat out group) and this is the second consecutive Wednesday we’ve dined at Uncle Bud’s,” lifelong Smyrna resident Johnny Barnett confirmed. “This week, we’ll rotate to eat at O’Charley’s … We love having all these nice restaurants to dine at in Smyrna.”
Panera Bread also recently opened along the busy Sam Ridley Parkway and a fall opening is scheduled for the new Long Horn Steak House under construction nearby the business corridor across from the Kohl’s shopping complex.
A new banking company with headquarters in Smyrna is also expected to be announced this fall.
Business in the north end of Rutherford County is “up, up and away,” described Smyrna Airport Executive Director John Black as he recently approved a blimp from Met-Life landing to be serviced on the massive acreage of old Sewart Air Force Base.
“We’ve modified a big hangar, to accommodate the marketing company than handles blimps that do promotions throughout America and Canada,” Black noted. “This is a big step in helping take Smyrna Airport’s brand throughout America … and now, we’ve signed a long-term service agreement on promotional blimps with the Light Ship Group out of Orlando, Fla.”
An announcement may come soon, announcing Friday and Sunday commuter flights out of Smyrna to Knoxville and return flights. Black confirmed passenger flights to Branson, Mo., have been successful this summer.
Smyrna Airport is also located along historic Sam Ridley Parkway, named for the late Smyrna Mayor Sam Ridley, the man credited with helping land Nissan Automotive Manufacturing plant that employs more than 8,000 throughout Middle Tennessee.
More than 1,000 employees were added to Nissan’s work force with this year’s announcement of the Infiniti luxury automobile being built at the Smyrna manufacturing plant on Lee Victory Parkway.
Perhaps the largest retail building currently under construction near Sam Ridley Parkway is the massive Academy Sports & Outdoors 75,000-square-foot facility near the intersection of Wolverine Drive.
Academy Sports has more than 130 locations throughout the Southeast.
“The neighboring regional power center anchored by Target, Kohls and Ross Dress for Less, along with Malco Cinema, makes this a prime location for the new sports and outdoor retailer,” a company press release detailed.
“We’re anticipating a fall opening for Academy Sports,” confirmed Smyrna Town Manager Mark O’Neal. “Although we, like most cities, have experienced a slow-down of business growth during the recession that hit in 2007-08, our business community is showing evidence of positive progress in terms of new business and expansions coming our direction.”