Every year, YOUR Williamson is proud to feature as our Community Partner – Williamson Inc. – the Chamber of Commerce of Williamson County. Every year, we take a look back at the economic status and activities in our community via the chamber and its many programs, events and initiatives. In the year of a pandemic, as is the case in every community across the country, the business and economic climate has been difficult in many ways. We are fortunate to live in Williamson County, Tennessee, where the status of business is STILL, very positive and encouraging. And thanks to the chamber’s ability to pivot and continue to work through the pandemic parameters for doing business, networking, holding events and in general operate as normal, they have had a very successful and eventful year.
Here is what has been happening and what continues to happen at Williamson Inc. – if you are not already – become a member! Join the chamber and be a part of the Best of Business in Williamson County!
Williamson, Inc. is proving that socially distanced doesn’t mean socially disconnected!
Throughout the pandemic, Williamson, Inc. has demonstrated their dedication to the community in many ways. Since the first local case of COVID-19 was confirmed, the organization has hosted ninety-one events in 150 business days. These events ranged from business resources and mental health to networking and inclusion. Twenty-five businesses have celebrated their opening or expansion with Williamson, Inc., with all twenty-five ribbon cuttings offering virtual
attendance and twenty of those being held in person and open to the public. “Connections build relationships and relationships lead to opportunity. We are an indispensable resource for the Williamson County business community because we have found ways to continue to allow our members to connect,” says Matt Largen, CEO Williamson Inc.
Williamson. Inc. Events
WHAT WILLIAMSON, INC. EVENTS SHOULD YOU BE ATTENDING? THE ORGANIZATION HAS A VARIETY OF MONTHLY RECURRING EVENTS THAT ARE AN ESSENTIAL ADDITION TO YOUR OUTLOOK CALENDAR.
First Friday: Business professionals looking for a catalyst to a successful month, First Friday is what Williamson, Inc. refers to as “Your Small Business Toolkit” and is free and open to the public. This event is the first Friday of every month and speakers are hand chosen to discuss relative topics for small business owners. Free and open to the public.
Policy Talks: The last Friday of every month is celebrated at 7:30AM with local elected officials. The conversation is moderated and questions from the audience are encouraged. This event is streamed on WCTV, WCTV Youtube channel and WAKM 950. Free and open to the public.
Member Connect!: Leads Exchange: Everyone is wondering how to maintain and create connections since handshakes were replaced with “Your mic is muted”. This biweekly opportunity is offered virtually or in person to accommodate anyone’s comfort level. Always reaching capacity, this event hosts an intimate group of 25-30 business professionals wanting to build their network. This event is a perk of your Williamson, Inc. membership.
Women in Business: This program was built not only to connect female professionals but to educate and engage them in the community. Williamson, Inc.’s Women in Business program hosts a yearly half day summit and offers multiple speaker and networking events throughout the year. These events are open to the public and free or discounted as a perk of your Williamson, Inc. membership.
Young Professionals: Although everyone is welcome to attend YP events, most attendees range from 26-40 years old. Throughout the pandemic, Williamson, Inc. young professionals have been ordering takeout from local restaurants and participating in virtual meetings, meeting in person while practicing social distancing and hearing from local speakers.
Williamson 101: This open house and networking event offers an intimate networking opportunity and valuable information on getting involved in the community. This event is free and open to the public.
Worried about missing an event? Have Williamson, Inc.’s newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday by subscribing at bit.ly/ WilliamsonWeekly or visit williamsonchamber.com/events.
Did you miss Williamson, Inc.’s Update Williamson event or other events? Check out our YouTube channel for archived content.
An Interview with President Matt Largen
Every year for our annual Business in Williamson County special feature, we take time to speak with the Williamson, Inc. President Matt Largen about the status of business and economic development in our county and region and what impact the Chamber of Commerce has had in growth and success in the previous year. 2020 has obviously been a year like no other in recent memory due to COVID 19. The impact of that not just from an economic standpoint but also from a social and community one, is huge. Let’s hear what Matt had to say about the year that was 2020 in Williamson County.
YW: Before COVID – what was the main focus and goal for 2020 for Williamson Inc.? How and when did you as a leader and your staff, determine the need to pivot into something different in order to address COVID?
ML: Our number one goal for our members has always been, and will always be, to provide relevant information, content and connections that help their company and organization prosper. We were created through unification of multiple chambers of commerce over eight years ago, to better serve the Williamson County business community, so service is in our DNA.
We began adjusting our programming the day the first case was announced in Williamson County on March 5th. Our economic development team launched a COVID-19 Response Google Document which created an open forum for business leaders to discuss response and containment efforts. That same day, we held our first conference call with local human resources managers from thirty-five Williamson
County-based companies. The call was an opportunity for our largest employers to allow to learn from each other in what became a rapidly changing environment. Our team also worked with local mayors to write the first reopening guidelines and advocated for businesses to remain open if they could meet certain public safety criteria. Every business is essential to the business owner and their customers, so we worked to redefine what it meant to be an essential business and make sure all businesses could reopen if they met the guidelines. Finally, we realized quickly that our small businesses needed a lifeline to keep their businesses open. We focused our efforts on helping companies apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided short-term funding to keep people employed. We transitioned one of our team members to a PPP caseworker and hosted multiple virtual events providing our businesses direct access to the SBA, the government agency responsible for managing the program.
YW: What has been the biggest challenge/biggest success for Williamson, Inc. and the Economic Development Division, in 2020? Something beyond COVID?
ML: From an economic development standpoint, the biggest success was the continued growth of companies likes Mars Petcare and Tractor Supply Company that expanded employment during COVID. In addition, 2020 saw the official move of Mitsubishi Motors to their new North American headquarters at McEwen Northside in Cool Springs. We are now one of four counties in America with at least two automotive headquarters. Thnks, a tech company from Manhattan, moved their headquarters to downtown Franklin in 2020, continuing our focus on attracting technology companies with high-paying jobs for our residents.
YW: Despite obvious challenges, there does seem to be a lot of new businesses opening in WC. What do you attribute that continued energy to and can it sustain if the pandemic and its effect on business continues long term? What exciting business news can you report as far as why it’s STILL a great idea to open a business, relocate a business and be in business in WC?
ML: We are very fortunate, and we are very resilient. What makes our economy truly resilient is the leadership of our county and the decisions made over thirty years ago that are paying off today. Over thirty years ago our county leadership, including county Mayor Rogers Anderson, decided to build our economy on the strength of our schools and create what would become a magnet for corporate headquarter investment along the I-65 corridor. Those corporate headquarters brought high-paying careers to our community, and those high-paying careers have created an explosion of opportunity for our small business community.
The unemployment rate in Williamson County is 3.6%, the second lowest in the region and nearly three percentage points better than the statewide unemployment rate. The latest job growth numbers available show that Williamson County had the 12th highest job growth rate in the nation at 2.6%. Our most recent sales tax collection number show a year-over-year increase, even through COVID-19. Our average home price has increased since COVID-19 and housing inventory is down. Most telling, Williamson, Inc. cut the ribbon on fifteen new businesses in October with ten ribbon cuttings scheduled for November and December. Of the Inc. 5000 fastest growing businesses winners in the past five years in Tennessee, 25-30% are from Williamson County, which accounts for only 3% of the state’s population. As the nature of work continues to evolve, Williamson County is poised to take advantage of opportunity, especially as it relates to work from home. In fact, Williamson County ranks 7th on National Association of Realtors list of top “Work from Home” counties. People continue to take a risk on their business and our community. Our economic momentum is clear. Williamson County remains a great place to invest.
YW: How can members, old, new and prospective, get the most bang for their buck out of joining Williamson, Inc.? Why is it still important to join now even when in person events and the ever important aspect of membership – networking - is not currently possible?
ML: During COVID-19 we became an indispensable resource for our members and the community. Moving forward, we continue to serve at an individual member-to-member level by interpreting the current business landscape and providing a path forward for our members. We have moved some of our programming to virtual events to provide opportunities to connect, and continue our smaller, in-person events, like ribbon cuttings and member connect leads exchanges, with safety measures in place.
The biggest reason it is important to join Williamson, Inc. now is the care and attention our team provides to every single member. I am incredibly proud of our team through COVID. They live up to the core values we set for ourselves and our high standards collectively and individually every single day. Their commitment to each other, our organization, and our community is something special, and it is manifested by the way they treat our business community.
YW: Tell us about Williamson Inc.’s new office. What does this mean both as space for your staff to work in but as a resource for the community at large?
ML: We are excited to have a much larger conference room for the community to rent, likely starting in December, with safety measures in place. We specifically designed and built a conference room that nearly doubles capacity from our old space so more community organizations and businesses can take advantage of the space. The conference room will also allow us to hold hybrid virtual and in- person events beginning in January. We are in one of the newest Williamson County mixed-used developments, McEwen Northside.
YW: As the head of the Chamber in Williamson County, what message do you want to share to members of the community and business owners?
ML: Please continue to show that we are a great community because we are a good community. Practice patience, extend kindness, and offer grace all of the time. One of my favorite quotes in the last few years I have heard is “when you examine or evaluate an issue or situation, evaluate it through your lens last.” Put yourself in the shoes of others every chance you get and make civility a priority every time you are online. To me, civility is the culmination of small, individual actions throughout the day directed towards someone else or some other group. Civility is not a by-product of culture; civility is something we decide to do every time we have a chance to build a bridge instead of burning one to the ground.