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'Expo Center in West Wilson would have been a sure money maker'

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One Mt. Juliet leader had hopes the Expo Center would be built in West Wilson and contends it would have made more money there.

Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said despite Mt. Juliet's request for the county to conduct site analysis and financial feasibility studies for an Expo Center in Mt. Juliet, he "expected" the Wilson County Commission's April 20 vote to build it at the James E. Ward Ag Center in Lebanon.

On April 13, the Mt. Juliet Commission voted on a resolution to ask for the studies based on what they thought was a better site for the proposed $10 million, 86,000-square-foot Expo Center. Hagerty said the city sent the resolution to county commissioners and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto prior to the vote.

"We thought the Expo Center would perform better in West Wilson," Hagerty said. "We thought more people would attend if it were closer to Nashville, more hotels and the airport."

Hagerty is disappointed, but not surprised, the Wilson County Commission voted 17-7 for the Expo Center be built on "free" county-owned land. The land is contiguous to the Ag Center, and already has infrastructure in place.

"Just because the land is free does not mean the Expo Center will do better there," Hagerty said.

"Over the long run, it probably would have made more money in West Wilson. If built here, it would have been a sure money maker."

Mt. Juliet District 4 City Commissioner Brian Abston said, "My priority is schools over an Expo Center." He said he's scheduled a meeting with Hutto Monday to discuss the Expo Center and the fact new schools must be built in the county to accommodate growing enrollment.

Hagerty said he heard from some West Wilson county commissioners who voted against approving funding to build the Expo Center at the Ag site. One of those was District 3's Bobby Franklin, who represents Hagerty's district. Franklin questioned the commission about a feasibility study. Hagerty also said he spoke with Hutto. He said Hutto said there was no specific lot identified in West Wilson.

"There's plenty of people who want to sell, and in the Interstate 40 and Beckwith areas, which would be ideal," Hagerty said.

Today, Mt. Juliet celebrates a ribbon cutting at the new Courtyard at Marriott that has 3,000 square feet of Expo space.

"And, that's private enterprise money, not the government's," Hagerty said.

Writer Laurie Everett may be reached at laurieeverett1@gmail.com

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Expo Center, West Wilson, Wilson County
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