Viewpoint: 2014’s top stories: A recap of the UC’s banner year

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. The end of the 2014 is quickly approaching, and, overall, it was quite the ring dinger for the Upper Cumberland region. That means it’s time to recap the top stories of the year.

“Hey, it seems super early for countdown lists,” or so you say. Well consider it like the sudden emergence of Christmas trees and decor, which seem to pop up earlier and earlier in our favorite stores each fall.

For what it’s worth, it was extremely easy to pick the year’s top five, and anybody who’s paid even an inkling of attention to the happenings in the area should have a pretty good idea of what took that coveted top spot. It was a big year for big headlines, and we’d love to hear what you thought about what made our list – or didn’t.

5. Campaign craze ushers in new office holders

Even though this month’s UCBJ went to press prior to the results of the Nov. 4 state and federal general election, it was still quite the year for posturing politics in the UC. Several long-time officials stepped away from the podium – including Charlotte Burks and Charlie Curtiss – and new county executives and commissioners were seated in their respective races.

4. Prison project resumes in Trousdale

After a multi-year delay, Corrections Corporation of America is now moving forward with construction of a 2,500-bed prison in Trousdale County. The project, which will create nearly 400 jobs, more than previous estimates, as well as more than 125 construction- related positions, should be finished in late 2015. While Trousdale is outside the Upper Cumberland boundary, it’s expected to have a ripple effect, especially for Macon, Smith and even DeKalb.

3. Smithville nursery lays off 250-plus as part of shut down

Nursery production is a bread- and-butter industry in DeKalb and Warren counties, so news that a major employer, Berry Family of Nurseries, was ceasing operation of its Smithville site on Vaughn Lane was quite a blow. The move was expected to “maximize efficiency” for the Texas-based grower. More than 250 jobs were affected.

2. TTI Floor Care/Oreck to expand Cookeville operations

Just last year, Oreck’s facility in Cookeville was in limbo as the vacuum maker battled bankruptcy. But in swooped TTI Floor Care and the rest is history. TTI, a maker of Hoover products, among others, announced in August that it would actually expand its operations here. The news will equate to 200-plus jobs and additional manufacturing capacity as lines are brought back from Mexico and China.

1. Academy Sports + Outdoors makes its grand announcement

After weeks of anticipation and a myriad of rumors, Academy Sports + Outdoors finally formally announced its plans to build a massive distribution facility in Cookeville, just outside the new Highlands Business Park. The deal will mean a $100 million investment and nearly 700 new jobs by the end of 2020.

Preparation at the more than 200-acre site has already begun. Hopes are the facility will be operational by 2016; hiring should start in 2015.

Besides being a huge notch in the state’s economic development belt, it was easily one of the largest such announcements in the region’s history and one local officials said may spur more feel-good news in coming years.


Liz Engel Clark is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at

Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at

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