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MJ - A city on the rise

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Ed Hagerty

Mt. Juliet is a "city on the rise" said Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty when he gave his State of the City address Wednesday and hinted another Fortune 100 company may have its sights set on the Beckwith interchange area.

Hagerty not only reviewed the city's economic progress, but also summarized the status of 2014's public safety, housing, infrastructure and financial health, among other things. The mayor spoke to a standing-room-only luncheon event hosted by the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce at Rutland Place and attended by dignitaries and the city's movers and shakers.

The biggest "tease" of the address was Hagerty's revelation a third Fortune 100 company could possibly join bigwigs FedEx and Under Armour currently under construction at Beckwith Farms, just off Interstate 40 on the south side of town.

"I stood at this podium a year ago and said we were in talks with two Fortune 100 companies at the Beckwith interchange," said Hagerty. "One was FedEx and it happened as hoped. The other was not Under Armour. I still can't say who, because they are out there and we are still talking."

Hagerty reviewed how the Under Armour deal came to be and said, "not only are they on track to hire 2,000 Tennesseans, they are a generous and compassionate company, and I'm glad they are here."

Hagerty also mentioned other new businesses that opened in 2014, or will soon open, including Kirkland's, Speedway market, Lasaters Coffee & Tea, Moe's Southwest Grill, Chuck E. Cheese's, Starbucks and Gander Mountain.

Mt. Juliet's current "rankings" in various state arenas are No. 3 as "Most Business Friendly" and "Most Family Friendly;" 6th Safest City; five years in a row "Most Playful City," and 4th "City on the Rise."

"And, as good as they are, no one, not me, not any of your elected leaders, are satisfied," said Hagerty. "Our goal is to be number one."

Proof is in the numbers
A quick review of Mt. Juliet's revenue sources shows in 2014, 347 residential housing permits were issued, along with 223 new business licenses.

"Mt. Juliet saw increased sales tax revenue each and every month compared to the past four years," Hagerty said.

And, the city's debt service is 4.9 percent of total expenses. The majority of expenses go toward public safety. Hagerty highlighted both the city's first ever fire department started in 2014 and the police department's crime solvability rate of 59.4 percent, the highest in Wilson County and exceeding the state's 38 percent average.

He noted the police department's move to the former Joy Church that nearly tripled space and helped consolidate other city space.

The mayor also recognized patrol officer Jon Wilhelm, who spent 2014 deployed in Afghanistan; a nod that got a standing ovation.

Hagerty took time to acknowledge the new Fire Department of Mt. Juliet that is now under the helm of Interim Fire Chief Jamie Luffman. He noted the city's property tax exclusively pays for the operation of the fire department, and the city will collect $1.57 million in 2015 for the department.

According to Hagerty, FDMJ answered 1,660 calls for service in 2014, with over "$2 million in property saved and three lives saved."

In the public recreation report, Hagerty noted the renovated Planet Playground and the acquisition of two pocket parks.

More plans for 2015 and beyond
Public works was also highlighted, with the mayor's mention of several large-scale projects that took place in 2014, including new sidewalks on Belinda Parkway and the planning of traffic lights at North Green Hill and Lebanon roads and Park Glen and Lebanon roads. He previewed current projects that include synchronized traffic lights in south Mt. Juliet, the Town Center Trail greenway, the Eastern Connector and the I-40 and Central Pike interchange.

Hagerty pinpointed several other things planned in 2014 and on target this year.

One is the city's new program, "City Wide, City Pride," which will kick off April 1 with a city cleanup day. The campaign is geared to decrease the amount of litter on city streets. There will be educational programs and a adopt a street opportunity for citizens.

Another project planned is to "enrich" the existing Mt. Juliet Road and I-40 interchange with high mast lighting and landscaping. Hagerty said the city will "look to" a way to cross I-40 with an additional two lane bridge. He said this would link the north side of the city to the south side and not have access to the interstate.

Hagerty concluded his speech with the recognition of Chamber Director Mark Hinesley.

"We have a great partner in the city with Mark and all the chamber folks," said Hagerty.

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

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city on the rise, Ed Hagerty, Mt. Juliet
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